Seventy-five years ago, a four-storey building opened on First Street in Estevan. It was constructed in five-and-a-half months, and it carried a price tag of $165,000.
That building was the original St. Joseph's Hospital.
When St. Joseph's Hospital first opened in Estevan, it was during the final days Great Depression. The Second World War had yet to break out.
St. Joseph's presence in Estevan pre-dates universal health care, the first NDP government in Saskatchewan and active oil drilling in the Estevan area. The First Street hospital was constructed long before the Boundary Dam Power Station.
The timeline and the cost represent two of the biggest changes for the hospital over the past 75 years. While $165,000 represented a lot of money by 1938's standards, it wouldn't even pay for some of the equipment found in the hospital today.
It also takes many years now to fundraise for, and to construct, a new hospital. Work on the First Street hospital started in 1936; the hospital opened in November of 1938.
There have been many changes in terms of physicians, nurses, staff, administrators, technology, equipment and standards of care.
But one thing hasn't changed: St. Joseph's – regardless of whether it's a four-storey building on First Street, or a sprawling complex on the northwest side of the city – has been staffed by dedicated, caring people.
Some employees who worked at the First Street hospital are still working at the modern St. Joseph's Hospital. Their commitment and longevity is laudable. Those who leave the medical profession are replaced by those with compassion and skill.
It can be easy to become disillusioned with certain elements of modern health care. A lot of taxpayer dollars is directed towards the health system in Canada. And for all the money we shell out for health care, we get long surgical waiting lists, crowded emergency rooms in bigger centres and budget short-falls.
Hospital foundations are forced to fundraise for new medical equipment for hospitals. We often have to travel two hours to see a specialist, to get an assessment or an operation. For certain surgeries, we have to travel a lot more than just two hours.
That's not the fault of the health care providers. It's a reflection of the nature of the health care system. It's a reflection of how many potential employees are scared away from health care due to the demands, the long hours and the emotions associated with being a doctor or a nurse.
For a community of this size, St. Joseph's is a terrific hospital. There are many communities that are Estevan's size that wish they had a hospital with as many services as St. Joseph's. It's one of Estevan's biggest assets when people choose to relocate to the community.
The hospital has faced challenges, hurdles, strikes and hiccups. It has endured the same staffing challenges of other hospitals. The employees have to cope with and adjust to new technologies, programs, systems and standards in care.
Yet people who enter the hospital expect excellent treatment, because that's the bar that has been set in the past.
And for that, Estevan should be very proud and thankful.