Vandenberg Photo

The History of Saskatchewan’s Early Hospitals, 1873-1920

Helen Vandenberg

Award: 2021 Project Grant

Long before the introduction of Canada’s provincially-funded health systems, a variety of voluntary, private, religious, and charitable hospitals were established in the Canadian prairie. Their development reflected broader international trends related to the settlement of British colonies and missionary hospitals. Saskatchewan, known as the “Birthplace of Medicare” played a significant role in the trajectory of Canada’s health policy and system development. The purpose of this study is to examine the history of Saskatchewan’s hospitals, before the hospital standardization movement of the 1920s. During this period, over 40 hospitals were built in the province. Government, religious and charitable organizations constructed many of these hospitals, but little is known about how they were funded and operated during a significant period of hospital construction. Scholars have tended to ignore the complexity of Western Canada’s early hospital development, typically to support the argument that the move to state-funded hospital care was a natural progression. Further analysis is needed to understand the complexities of Canada’s early hospital history, and how they were shaped by region, policy, and context.