Feature Story                                                                                     Monday February 21, 2011

Spirits of the Longhouse

CGH Hospital Turns 100

Craig Hill/Voice photos


Local dignitaries help bury 2011 CGH time capsule last Friday in celebration of the hospital's 100th Anniversary. Arden Krystal (left), Stó:lō Chief Alice Thompson, Councillor Diane Janzen, John Smith, MLA Barry Penner, MLA John Les, FVHF Vikki Raw, Etta Richmond


ince 2008, mayors and councillors walked for it, bands have sung for it, artists have painted or carved for it, organizations held fundraisers and kids sold raffle tickets for it. On Friday, dignitaries and the public, celebrated the Chilliwack General Hospital's centennial year and the completion of the $35-million redevelopment project. The event also signified that the magnanimous struggle for funding is over — for the most part.


Officials marked the occasion with an open house and created even more history by burying a time capsule directly across from emergency department entrance. It's location is designated with a carved granite stone and placed inside the shiny black tube were signed photos of the hospital auxiliary, service league volunteer groups, a current copy of the newspaper and other assorted memorabilia.


About 100 people filled the emergency department waiting room and listened to speakers talk about the hospital from it's humble beginnings in 1911 with 12 beds in a building that cost $10,000 serving 1500-2000 people, to the state-of-the-art $35-million dollar facility that it is today.

Arden Krystal, Fraser Health Authority VP of Clinical Operations, and ceremony emcee, welcomed various guest speakers and dignitaries.

"This is an example of a wonderful partnership with local government and local fundraising and all kinds of community effort, so we're very proud of that," she told the audience at the hospital.                                                      The hospital in 1970. Progress newspaper photo.


"Through the redevelopment, we consolidated a number of critical services in the hospital," said Krystal in a press release after. "A patient can now walk from the front lobby right up to the lab, medical imaging, ambulatory care or emergency. This will improve patient service and patient flow significantly."

Krystal said that the project funding came from two sources; the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District and the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation.

The 138-bed hospital now has a modernized laboratory and emergency room department plus several facilities have been renovated including ambulatory, cardio-pulmonary, medical daycare, pediatric offices, records department, outpatient services and staff library.

Krystal added that the new facility "will help meet the growing needs of Chilliwack and the surrounding communities" and provide better services and patient flow.

Chief Alice Thompson from Sto:lo Nation was the first guest to address the audience and gave a greeting in her native Salish language.

"It's a very exciting day with many smiling faces and I'm happy to see that," she said continuing in English. "On behalf of Stolo Nations I would like to welcome you to traditional territory of the Stolo Nation and I hope you have a wonderful day."

John Les, MLA for Chilliwack, was the next to share his thoughts, making comparisons to the way it was then and now in the new millennium.

"I couldn't help but wonder if the people who were here 100-years ago would ever have imagined that the hospital and the community would one day grow to what it is today," he said and adding that "the hospital today perhaps is a little different in that long stays in the hospital was probably more prevalent back in those days and today we have large and commodious ambulatory care facilities where people can get the care they need and go home the same day.

Les said that it's the first time he's seen a community like Chilliwack where the residents "stepped forward" to raise the necessary funds.

"It's particularly those who have contributed significantly to the hospital foundation that I would like to tip my hat to this morning," said Les. "It's been marvelous the way this has all come together. and to all of you who are involved in that, thank you very much and congratulations."

Barry Penner, MLA for Chilliwack-Hope told the audience how enthused he was during a sneak preview at the emergency room about two-months ago.

"I was very impressed how modern they are and clearly a big improvement over what was here in the past."

He thanked the staff and those "dedicating their lives to providing medical services to residents" and adding that "you can have all the technology in the world but it's the people who are vital to the system."

"Health Care is ultimately about people and we need good quality people providing those services," said Penner. "So an important thing in the province of British Columbia now is that there are more doctors than there used to be. There is also double the number of nursing training spaces available in colleges and universities here in British Columbia."

Penner encouraged people to take more responsibility for their own health and to think about what they eat. He also took the opportunity to remind people that bodies need exercise to stay healthy adding that "smoking rates in British Columbia are the lowest in Canada" and that around 15% of the populace on the west coast are smokers.

Penner's wife is due to give birth and the MLA quipped that he'd be spending more quality time with her at the hospital any minute now.

In his closing remarks, Penner thanked the Fraser Valley Hospital Board and the people that led the fundraising efforts in Chilliwack.

Dianne Janzen, councillor for the City of Chilliwack, also thanked the people who were in attendance for their support and also the provincial government and the Fraser Valley Hospital District.

"I don't think people understand what kind of leadership role they took to invest in this hospital and the $30-million dollar contribution," adding that "it was done during an economic recession."

She thanked hospital staff and said that the City did some research o the way the medical community was 100-years ago and found that if you had a scrap to apply mercury, bloodletting was still around and "apparently if you had bronchitis they would recommend cigarettes, in particular, menthol."

Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz who is the Chair for the Fraser Valley Regional Hospital District was not present at the event however she did make a comment in the official press release saying that "it is fitting that the new and improved facilities at Chilliwack General Hospital are fully complete in the same year that the hospital celebrates its centennial year. The hospital is now well equipped to continue into its second century of caring for our community."

John Smith, Abbotsford City councillor and representative from the Fraser Valley Regional Health District said that many of the board members who made the original decision to support the project were in fact in the audience.

"It's a wonderful day, not only for Chilliwack, but for the region," he said explaining that the residents will be the biggest beneficiaries by far, but everybody will benefit from this."

Smith recalled the meeting that John Janzen and Alan Unger along with others had with the board to get the ball rolling.

"Mayor George Peary was the chair and they persuaded us to embark on this exciting project. They convinced us of the need for this additional facility and we subsequently provided $30-million dollars on the understanding that the Health Care Foundation would raise the significant sum of $5-million."

"I want to congratulate all of those people who have contributed, who had the courage and put their money on the line, without them this would not have happened. The project has come in not only on budget and on time but, the architects were able to design and deliver a better facility."

Smith said the entire hospital district paid towards the debt that we have to pay back owed to the taxpayers within Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Mission, Kent, Harrison Hot Springs and the rural electoral areas and communities on the north side of the river, Laidlaw, Popkum, Sunshine Valley, Yale, Emery Creek and Boston Bar.

"This new facility fits well into the regional health delivery system and compliments the new Abbotsford Regional Hospital and future Mission health care facility."

He thanked the Fraser Health Authority and their commitment to providing health services and that even though the $35-million cost for the facility was a big number, the actual operational and staffing costs will dwarf that figure over the next 50-years.

Vikki Raw, executive director of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation took a turn at the microphone telling guests that even though her group had only been a part of the hospital "health care family" for 11-years, they've had the opportunity to meet and work with some wonderful people.

"The money we raise in Chilliwack stays in Chilliwack and we are extremely grateful to all of our donors who continually endorsed what we did here," said Raw. "Donations truly make a difference as you can see right here, right now, as you gather in this space."

Raw thanked the hospital auxiliary and volunteers who's work often goes unnoticed and said she sees their work "every single day" and described how they've made an impact by raising funds.

Raw quipped that "The auxiliary is also turning 100-years old today and I think they look fabulous. These dedicated individuals are definitely making a difference."

In particular, Raw had thanks for Al Janzen, Etta Richmond, Sylvia Krammer, Al Folkman, Dan Rogers, Diane Janzen and Dr. John Hamilton and for support from Wayne McAlpine, Cheryl Britton and members of the campaign marketing committee.

Etta Richmond, committee chair the Campaign For Health Care Excellence was the final speaker and added more context to the hospital's timeline by saying that the land the facility is sitting on was originally donated in 1908 by the Hodgins family and by 1911 the cornerstone had been laid and is still part of the entrance.

"In 1986, construction of CGH commenced and officially opened on January 30, when we celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the hospital."

When it came to negotiating the project, Richmond said that all along the way she ran into the "yes, we can" attitude and thanked everyone from doctors to the auxiliary for making it happen.

"It's been a remarkable 100-years," said Richmond.

In closing, Dianne Miller, Director of Primary Health Care and Aboriginal Health said that "Fraser Health values our relationship with our aboriginal partners and our staff at the hospital were very committed to having this artwork displayed." she said referring to the 4-hours it took to mount the largest carving.

Miller talked about the artwork and thanked local artists who donated the pieces. She also thanked Josh Moore and Terrance Spears, the grade 11 and 12 Chilliwack Sr. Secondary students, who produced a health care video which was shown at the event.

Visitors to the hospital will see aboriginal carvings and paintings including a 6-foot tall cedar carving of a Stelmexw Medicine Man by Skowkale artist Stan Greene; a Medicine Woman and helpers panel carving by Francis Horne; Skwah band Bonny Krulicki, painted large banners featuring Halkomelem words of healing and a healing wheel; and an 8-foot red cedar spindle whorl (disc) titled "The Longhouse Spirits by George Pennier, from Chehalis. The 400-pound carving is and adorned with a frog, salmon and longhouse, which are Salish symbols of health and healing.

Chilliwack resident and accomplished guitarist Ron Swanson provided the entertainment. He is also a faculty member of the Chilliwack Academy of Music.

This capital funding complements the more than $2 billion provided to Fraser Health annually by the B.C. government to meet the health care needs in our communities. Hospital facilities and health services will continue to be managed and operated by Fraser Health.

Fraser Health provides a wide range of integrated health services to the largest and fastest growing population in British Columbia. The health authority is committed to improving the health of the population and the quality of life of more than 1.5 million people living in communities from Burnaby to White Rock to Hope.

Over the next three years, patients and health-care professionals across the province will benefit from investments in new medical equipment and modernized health facilities as part of a $2.5 billion health-care capital plan.

See more photos below.

© Copyright (c) 2010 The Valley Voice


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