Cariboo Memorial Hospital celebrates 60th anniversary with tea

Former medical staff members Dr. Noel Donnelly, left, and nurses Muriel McFaddin and Jean Bishopp cut the cake during a 60th anniversary celebration of Cariboo Memorial Hospital held Wednesday, Aug. 24 in the hospital cafeteria. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
The new Cariboo Memorial Hospital in 1962 (Photo from Williams Lake Archives)The new Cariboo Memorial Hospital in 1962 (Photo from Williams Lake Archives)

Cariboo Memorial Hospital (CMH) celebrated its 60th anniversary Wednesday, Aug. 24 with a tea in the cafeteria.

In attendance were retired nurses Muriel McFaddin and Jean Bishopp, who were both working at the hospital when it opened.

Bishopp was the nurse that wheeled the first patient into the new hospital and McFaddin was the matron at the time.

Michael Atwood attended to represent his father Dr. Hugh Atwood, who cut the ribbon at the opening 60 years ago. Also in attendance were retired doctor Neil Donnelly and sisters Cindy Watt and Brenda Bourdon whose grandfather Tony Woodland was on the hospital board for many years.

Watt is on the Cariboo Memorial Hospital Foundation and said this year’s Hospital Gala on Nov. 5 is to fundraise for surgery and diagnostic equipment.

“We have always believed if we have a strong hospital and a strong medical community we’ll have a strong city. I want to thank everyone who does the work here and makes it a safe place to be,” Watt said.

Physician Dr. Glenn Fedor described CMH as the “little hospital that could.”

He said when the hospital opened it was the first place in town that had air conditioning, central heating and an elevator.

The first War Memorial Hospital erected in 1925 cost around $24,000 to build and the price tag for was CMH was $1.9 million. The hospital redevelopment expected to get underway spring of 2023 is presently projected to cost $218 million.

There were 75 beds in CMH when it opened. In 1973 the pediatric unit was added to the fourth floor and in 1977 the nurses’ residence was added, followed by Deni House in 1987 and the new addition and renovation with the new wards for emergency and operating in 1995, as well as the cafeteria and new labs.

“Now we have the whole new redevelopment coming,” Fedor said. “ There have been lots of people who have come and gone. Unfortunately some have passed on and they’ve often left great memories and legacies.”

Today the hospital is struggling every day to find staffing, deal with viruses and medical advances, he added.

“The hospital was up as high as 87 beds in 1981 when I came and now we are down to 28 beds but that is partly due to advances in medications, vaccinations, and day surgeries. Appendixes can now be taken out during the day and you can send patients home. In maternity when I first came here Noel Donnelly used to keep a normal delivery in for five days.”

Mayor Walt Cobb said he was 18 when CMH opened, mayor when the addition was completed in 1995 and with any luck will be mayor when the redevelopment is done.

“I have to give credit to staff over the years. We can’t do it without them and I just so much remember, in particular when we went through the fires in 2017 how great the staff was,” Cobb said.

READ MORE: Cariboo Memorial Hospital upgrade delayed, spring 2023 new target

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