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St. Paul’s admitted its first patient 125 years ago

Nurses tend to patients at St. Paul's in 1928.

This week, Providence Health Care marked an important anniversary.

On November 21, 1894 – 125 years ago – St. Paul’s Hospital admitted its very first patient, a woman by the name of Mrs. Woodlock. At the time, the hospital was a modest 25-bed, four-storey cottage recently opened by the Sisters of Providence to serve the health care needs of the growing port city.

St. Paul’s Hospital in 1894.

What ailed Mrs. Woodlock is still unknown (early records are incomplete). In St. Paul’s first year, 120 patients were admitted, with the Sisters personally taking care of all of them. The doctors, who often lived in the new West End neighbourhood, used horse-drawn buggies in the summer months and horse-drawn sleighs in winter. A hitching post was installed outside the hospital gate. Ambulances were also horse-­drawn. On arrival, the driver would ring a bell for assistance.

The shape, size and scope of St. Paul’s has changed a lot since 1894, but in the 125 years since that first patient was served, Providence’s commitment to serving those most in need has remained constant.

St. Paul’s Hospital today.

Today, Providence is in an exciting time of change. A new $1.9 billion St. Paul’s Hospital is expected to open in the False Creek Flats area in 2026, replacing the aging Burrard Street facility. As the largest hospital redevelopment in B.C.’s history, the new St. Paul’s will have capacity for up to 548 beds, including 115 new beds.

Meanwhile, Providence has just taken a monumental step and implemented an electronic-records system at St. Paul’s Hospital, Mount Saint Joseph Hospital and Holy Family Hospital. This means switching from using a mix of paper-based charts and old systems to using a new clinical information system called CST Cerner to improve patient care.

“In 10 years’ time, we can’t imagine being a world-leading organization in health care and not being at the forefront of the digital technology revolution and this go-live is really the first step towards that,” Fiona Dalton, President and CEO of Providence, said of the switch to CST Cerner.

With a new hospital on the horizon, and with electronic health records in place, Providence is well positioned to deliver compassionate care to the people of B.C. for another 125 years.

Artistic rendering of the new St. Paul's Hospital and health campus at the False Creek Flats. (IBI Group Architects / Providence Healthcare)

Artistic rendering of the new St. Paul’s Hospital and health campus at the False Creek Flats. (IBI Group Architects / Providence Healthcare)

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