When walking eastward along Orcan Drive, one will encounter a large open area just after Mt. Pleasant Street. Seems quiet and placid. But up until 1996, this was the site of the Placentia Cottage Hospital.
During the Early Days
Originally built in 1935 in Argentia, the cottage hospital could not remain as the site had been slated as the new location for the. Consequently, the cottage hospital was moved to Placentia (sometimes referred to a Townside).
The cottage hospital system was a development of the Commission of Government, a body that was in office from 1934-1949. The cottage hospital system had been used in places such as Scotland which had a similar geography to the island of Newfoundland. Hence, the cottage hospital system, as well as the Cottage Hospital Medical Care Plan (MCP), started in 1935.
It was as this time when a cottage hospital was built in Argentia, most likely due to its accessibility by rail and water. However, things changed with the onset of war. And after high ranking officials from the United States and Britain discussed the issue throughout 1940, the decision had been made. The Argentia peninsula would indeed be given to the United States for a military base. But these plans overlooked one thing. For hundreds of years, there’d been communities of people living on the land intended for the base.
What was merely a series of signatures for the land to be ceded to the United States from Britain and Newfoundland, was far more grave for those living in Argentia. It left deep scars and heartbreaking memories were seared into the minds of many from Argentia, memories that would readily traverse the generations. Certainly, institutions such as the Argentia Cottage Hospital would need to be moved. But everything had to go, both living and dead. By the time construction began on the U.S. Naval Station, Argentia, there was no indication anything had been there previously.
Up and Running
Plans had gotten underway and by August of 1941, construction on the Placentia Cottage Hospital began. It would prove to be a boon for many, as there would be higher paying jobs associated with the construction. After working full speed ahead, the Placentia Cottage Hospital opened its doors officially on the 27th November, 1942. Dr. Paton was the first physician and he was assisted by Sister Reddy who dealt with managing all other operational elements of the hospital. Several other individuals fulfilled other positions including nurse’s aide, laundry, cook, laundry, and janitorial issues.
By 1949, Placentia Cottage Hospital was joined by thirteen of the eighteen hospitals that were built. These included hospitals in Old Perlican, Markland, Burgeo, Harbour Breton, Come By Chance, Stephenville Crossing, Bonavista, Norris Point, Grand Bank, Placentia, Brookfield, Gander and Botwood. Except for northern parts serviced by the International Grenfell Association, cottage hospitals were constructed throughout Newfoundland (since 1965, no cottage hospitals were built).
From 1946, Dr. Collingwood practised at the Placentia Cottage Hospital. A few years afterwards, one of the biggest improvements was the use of the Lady Anderson as a hospital ship. It would mean that the people living on the islands would not have to travel to Placentia for health care.
Things were steadily improving. In 1953, after requesting additional healthcare professionals, Dr. Collingwood was joined by Dr. Iain Hugh Murray Smart and Dr. Nicholas Daly. Several years later, on 1st July, 1960, Dr. Collingwood retired. He was succeeded by Dr. John Munro Ross. Not long afterwards, on the 20 September, 1961, a new eight-bed maternity ward officially opened, something Dr. Collingwood had been requesting for years. Another much-needed addition was a small nursery that had space for six cribs or so-called “isolettes.”
End of an Era
Over time, the approach to health was changing and the cottage hospitals became part of a more extensive health system comprised of Hospital Boards and Regional Boards. On 1st April, 1989, the Placentia and Area Health Care Board took over the operation of the Placentia Hospital from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. And then on the 22nd June, 1996, the cottage hospital building was officially closed and its role in the healthcare for the communities was replaced by the Placentia Health Care Complex.
Although the Placentia Cottage Hospital remained a part of the landscape for two more years, at this time, it was taken down thus ending an era. However, the Placentia Cottage Hospital has undoubtedly left a wealth of memories in its wake.