Community says ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ to Grey Nuns

Fort Frances Times and Rainy Lake Herald

Fort Frances paid tribute to the Sisters of Charity, or of Grey Nuns on Thursday afternoon and evening for their 34 years of dedicated service as owners, administrators and operators of LaVerendrye General Hospital, prior to the transfer of ownership to a non-profit, charitable corporation, the LaVerendrye General Hospital (Fort Frances) Incorporated, with and elected board of governors.

While payment was made for the Hospital on Thursday night, the change in administration was made at month end with Kenneth W. White. assuming the position of Hospital Administrator and Leanne Hayes, RN, BSc, formerly of Kenora, becoming Director of Nursing.

The Day of Recognition commenced Thursday afternoon when some 200 people stepped into the afternoon reception in the ballroom of the Rainy Lake Hotel, with many woundresses, administrators, and nursing personal who had served here over the years,were present for this special occasion. The Ladies Auxiliary of LaVerendrye were in charge of arrangements.

In the evening LaVerendrye Hospital and the Town of Fort Frances expressed their gratitude to the Grey Nuns for their devoted service to the community from 1941 to 1975 at a a formal dinner in the Columbus Hall. Members of the Rainy Lake Council, Knights of Columbus, catered a delicious beef dinner.

W.J. Gange chairman of the hospital’s new board of governors, served as chairman, calling on the hospital chaplain, Fr. Beaulieu to say grace and Mrs. Des Fleurie, president of the Ladies Auxiliary, to propose a toast to the Queen.

The formal transfer of the hospital took place with Dr. J. Baldwin presenting a cheque from the Ontario Ministry of Health to Mr. Gange, who passed it on to Sister Bernadette Poirer s.g.m. provincial superior and received in honor a symbolic key to the hospital.

Dr. Baldwin, who had participated in the negotiations leading to the change in ownership, said he was personally honoured to be working with a remarkable group of people. He paid tribute to the Sisters and their dedication in providing the best health services in the community. Looking forward to the future, Dr. Baldwin said the hospital has a distinguished past and a most promising history. He brought greetings, as well as the cheque, from the Premier William Davis and Health Minister Frank Miller, with their grateful thanks to the Grey Nuns and their best wishes to the new board of governors.

“We have to come and say thank you and goodbye” Sister Poirer said in accepting the cheque from Mr. Gange. “There is a sadness in our lives tonight.” Then, briefly, she traced the events leading to the building of LaVerendrye Hospital in 1941 by the Grey Nuns’ tasks were over and it was time to pass the responsibility of operating the Hospital to other hands. In doing so, the Grey Nuns were most grateful to all who had assisted in carry on their work here.

In passing the symbolic key to Mr. Gange, Sister Poirer said “tonight we have written the last chapter in volume one of the history of LaVerendrye Hospital and chapter one of volume 2.” Sister Richard, she pointed out, was here for the first day, and last day of transaction which led to the turning over of the Hospital.

Gordon McTaggart, a member of the board of Governors, paid tribute to the Grey Nuns for being farsighted enough to see that this day was coming and to prepare for it through the creation of advisory boards. “The Sisters will take with them that personal touch which made which no government f board can touch,” he said, adding “We wish them well in the future thank home for letting us help in the past.”

Judge A.D. McLennan, attending a meeting of judges out-of-town, sent his greetings in the form of a letter read by Mr. Gange, after citing the gentle and charitable work of the Sisters. Judge McLennan extended his thanks to them as the past member of the original advisory board appointed 25 years ago.

“You will always be in our hearts” was the expression of gratitude by Irene Przybylski, graduate nurse with 25 years of experience here, who spoke on behalf of the employees.

White expressed his appreciated to the Ladies Auxiliary for the afternoon presentation after which Mrs.Fleurie presented Sister Poirier with the guest register. It was pointed out that 109 Sisters had arrived in Fort Frances over the years and were now scattered all around the world.

Dr. B Johnstone., who drew a chuckle when he pointed out that his board qualifications were that he doesn’t drink, smoke, swear, complimented the tremendous task they had accomplished here while Mayor Allen Avis said many of us here have memories of the kindness shown to us as patients. We will miss you, but wherever you go, to you always will have the best wishes of the people of Fort Frances.”

The surprise of the evening, especially to Sister Alice Gelinas and Sister Cecile Richard, came when Mr. Gange presented them with trips to Rome during Holy Year which is now being observed. Both pressed their sincere thanks. Sister Richard, recalling the past three years as hospital administrator, said she would always remember the kindness of the people of Fort Frances. She paid tribute to the competence and skill of the medical staff, the spirit and harmony and co-operation which existed with the hospital staff. Referring to Mr. White, hospital comptroller for the past six years, she said “without his untiring assistance, my task would have been left undone.”

Thus, after 34 years of dedicated service, regretfully but sincerely, the community and bid them good-bye.
On June 5, 1941, LaVerendrye Hospital opened its doors in Fort Frances, dedicated to healing the sick. The Sisters or Charity, Order of the Grey Nuns, had been approached by interested residents and organizations particularly Dr. J.C. O’Donnell, R.H. Gilmour and Rev. Fr. Paquette and operate a hospital in the community. With the approval of the voters, on January 27, 1941 the Town of Fort Frances, by bylaw 1256, approved an agreement with the Grey Nuns by which the town would provide a site, free public utilities including local telephone service, and exempt the hospital from municipal taxes as a consideration towards the Order building and operating the facility. thus it was with considerable pride and satisfaction, both to the residents and the medical profession, when a 50-bed hospital, erected at a cost of $150,000 was dedicated on June 3, 1941, and then opened on June 5, 1941.

The name “LaVerendrye Hospital” was particularly appropriate, honouring the family which erected Fort St. Pierre, the first permanent post at Fort Frances, and also the niece who founded in Montreal the Sisters of Charity, Order of the Grey Nuns.

Within the first decade, it was apparent that more beds and additional facilities were required and on December 12, 1952, the central section was added, providing 60 additional beds including 10 private rooms, 11 semi-private rooms, and six four-bed wards. this brought the hospital’s capacity up to 100 beds and 26 bassinets.
Again in 1970 it was determined that remodeling was necessary and, for the first time, financial assistance from the Town of Fort Frances was sought. Since 1959, when the Ontario Hospital Commission took over operating expenses, the privately owned and operated LaVerendrye Hospital had to provide one-third of the costs for improvements and renovations. With voter approval, the town contributed $160,000 and the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company Limited $50,000 towards the cost of the renovations. In 1971 section also was completely renovated. In addition, the renovations included three operating suites, two delivery suites, a casualty treatment room, centralized sterilizing room together with new stairways, laboratories and a fire safety system.
In December, 1970, when the hospital assumed responsibility for the community ambulance service, the garage was renovated to accommodate the two ambulances.

Following a survey by the Joint Credit Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals in December, 1957, LaVerendrye Hospital received its first certificate of accredation in January, 1958, and these certificates have been renewed at three-year intervals. This year the survey will come on June 30, when the Sisters of Charity, Order of Grey Nuns bring their long successful, successful association with LaVerendrye Hospital to a close.

A hospital, however, is more than facilities; it is a highly specialized staff. During its first years, members of the Grey Nuns all qualified specialists, worked alongside civilian registered nurses to work with the medical doctors and patients. Realizing the need of offering training in nursing in Fort Frances, the LaVerendrye Hospital Training Centre was opened by the Order on September 12, 1955, with a class of 12 students, eight being certified by the Ontario Department of Health a nursing assistants one year later. The former J.A. Mathieu residence at 210 Armit Ave., donated as a nurses’ residence in 1942, was the first training centre, on the hospital grounds, with a capacity of 20 students, was opened in September, 1910. when the training centre came under the College of Nurses Act, its graduates became registered nursing assistants. On June 6, 1975 when, when members of the 20th graduating class received their diplomas, they brought to 263 the number of graduates, within the best in the province, have remains to carry on their profession here.

In 1963, to alleviate the nursing shortage, LaVerendrye Hospital also held a five-week refresher course for graduate nurses who might like to return to the profession locally on a part-time basis.

LaVerendrye Hospital, incorporated in 1941 with its board of directors named annually, is remembered for its many able administrators, including Sisters Ste. Emelienne Noemie Dion, M.A. Poliquin, Marie-Jeanne Tougas, Delia Clermont, Lucille Gosselin, Cecile Mourice, Marguerite Michaud, Alice Gelinas, and Cecile Richard.

An Advisory board, consisting of local residents, also contributed to managment and when the board was reorganized in June, 1958, J.A. Mathieu was named honourary chairman and a life member while Ralph H. Gilmour and J.H. Parker were also honoured for their services to to the hospital by being named honourary life members.
LaVerendrye Hospital has been the beneficiary of gifts from the many individuals and organizations, and among these, throughout the years its Ladies Auxiliary has worked most diligently, both within the hospital and in raising funds for much-needed equipment, in joining the others to show the community’s appreciation for its hospital.
Now, on July 1, 1975, the ownership and management of LaVerendrye Hospital will pass from the Sisters of Charity, Order of Grey Nuns of Montreal to LaVerendrye General Hospital (Fort Frances) Incorporated, a non-profit, charitable organization with directors to be elected annually.

At the opening of the hospital, the Fort Frances Times said editorially “The LaVerendrye Hospital is a welcome addition to Fort Frances and the Sisters of Charity, Order of Grey Nuns of Montreal, who erected it, will receive the thanks of the community; perhaps not now, but in years to come as patient after patient passes outwards through its doors, on the road to recovery, cleansed of bodily ills.”

This has come to pass.

LaVerendrye Hospital has meant many things to many people, yet it can be summed up briefly; an institution the best in facilities together with a highly specialized staff, all dedicated to the care and healing of the sick, an institution providing the best in facilities together with a highly specialized staff, all dedicated to the care and healing of the sick, an institution of which Fort Frances and district residents can well be proud.
This is the heritage which the Sisters of Charity, Order of Grey Nuns has left Fort Frances and as the Sister Bernadette Poirier s.g.m., Provincial Superior of the Grey Nuns, Winnipeg, has written:

“Out wish is for a constant growth of LaVerendrye Hospital for the well being of all the citizens, from the cradle up.
“God’s blessing be with you all.”