Nine years in the making: the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital
August 15th, 2016
This July marked the 120th anniversary of the official inauguration of the Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital, which had its beginnings rooted nearly a decade earlier, in 1887. The impetus for the hospital was two-fold: Chiefly, fast-growing cities, such as Sherbrooke in the 1860s and 1870s, with their closely-populated neighbourhoods and lack of city-wide sanitation, were especially good places for contagious disease epidemics, such as smallpox and typhoid fever. The establishment of hospitals allowed for the treatment and quarantine of infected people. Secondly, and more specifically, the prominent Sherbrooke businessman Richard W. Heneker felt strongly that the Protestants of the area should contribute to the health care of their fellow brethren with the establishment of a hospital.
These things came together so that by 1887, the general public sentiment was in support of a Protestant hospital to complement the work being done by the Catholic Hospice du Sacré-Coeur. A site for this new hospital was chosen, consisting of 13.8 acres overlooking the St. Francis River on Pine Street (later Park Ave. and now rue du CEGEP), and funding-raising began in earnest. However, it was not until Heneker, himself, gifted over half of the funds necessary that the hospital Corporation could finally purchase the property.
The Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital was officially incorporated in 1888 but it would be seven years before the building was completed and yet another year before it was officially opened. After nine long years, the grand opening was met with excitement as long-time supporters gathered on the hospital lawn on July 8th,1896 to see how their work had finally come to fruition.
The original hospital consisted of two wards, with a capacity of 14 patients, an operating room, a nurses’ and servants’ quarters, dining room, electricity, hot and cold water, bathrooms, and a modern laundry. The first doctors of the hospital were A Norreys Worthington, Frederick J. Austin, W.D. Smith, and William A. Farwell. Notwithstanding its name of the “Sherbrooke Protestant Hospital,” the governors emphasized that it would serve the people of all the Townships, regardless of their religion.
The hospital governors spoke with pride of the public contributions and generosity that was the source of the vast majority of the funds, totalling $20,826, needed to bring the hospital into being. In the following years, fees paid by patients covered only one third of the expenses and, so, it was a continual exercise through private donations and philanthropic organizations to keep the hospital in good financial standing.
For 18 years, this first hospital building served the population until the region’s needs outgrew its capacity. In 1914, a new hospital was inaugurated as the “Sherbrooke Hospital,” again largely the result of donations and special gifts. This building was followed by a third and final building in 1951, built on Argyle Avenue.