Fall 2010

A & E
Capturing an era of cottage hospitals


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St. John’s author and publisher Edward Lake has now compiled the first book to ever chronicle the entire history of the province’s cottage hospital system, Capturing an Era: History of the Newfoundland Cottage Hospital System.

by Jonathan Carpenter

For more than half a century the cottage hospital system delivered quality health care to hundreds of patients in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. John’s author and publisher Edward Lake has now compiled the first book to ever chronicle the entire history of the province’s cottage hospital system. Capturing an Era: History of the Newfoundland Cottage Hospital System is a compilation of archival documents, personal accounts and a diverse selection of photographs.

Lake is a retired registered nurse and former director of health for the Labrador coast. He says unlike most history books, Capturing An Era combines statistical data with narrative about the life of the cottage hospitals and the lives of patients, families and staff that were touched along the way.

He credits Dr. John Munro Ross as first having the idea for the book while working as Chief Medical Officer at the Placentia Cottage Hospital. Dr. Ross began compiling research for the book in the mid-1980s as a retirement project. Lake, who also worked at the hospital, had already amassed a considerable amount of research and the two friends agreed to partner on the project. However, when Dr. Ross was diagnosed with cancer, the project was no longer a priority and was shelved.

In 2006, Lake was approached by Katherine Daley, board chair of the Health Archives and Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador, about reviving the project. Lake agreed and he began sending out requests in local newspapers asking readers to submit their own memories of the cottage hospitals.

“The sad part about it is that a lot of information was lost when they closed the cottage hospitals. Instead of keeping the documents and records they got rid of them. What we’re trying to do now is preserve at least the memory of the cottage hospitals while we can,” said Lake.

The book contains anecdotes about the doctors, nurses, administrators and support staff, who provided a system of quality health care that never before existed. It also documents two traveling hospital ships that augmented the system by providing care to remote coastal communities. The book also examines such topics as pre-Commission of Government hospitals, the origin of the cottage hospital system and its founders, ties to Memorial University and an overview of each individual hospital.

The cover of the book, consisting of two integrated photographs, was also designed by Lake. The Dory Buff yellow clapboard siding and the Forest Green traditional window trim, which was common on most government buildings of the time, encases a photo of Head Nurse Catherine McGrath, RN, holding the last premature baby born at the Placentia Cottage Hospital.

The book will be available for purchase on December 1st, marking the 75th anniversary of the official establishment of the cottage hospital system in the province. Lake says the timing is also significant in that it is being released during the final year of the Health Archives’ operation, due to a withdrawal of government funding. Lake dedicates Capturing an Era to his family doctor, mentor and friend, Dr. John Munro Ross.

To order a copy of Capturing an Era visit www.capturinganera.net.  

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