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Ste. Rose Hospital celebrates 80 years

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Care, compassion and commitment is the mission statement of the Ste. Rose Hospital and as its 80th anniversary was celebrated, examples of those words were raised throughout the history of the centre in the community.
Mayor Robert Brunel explained the Ste. Rose General Hospital officially opened on Feb. 7, 1939, in a three-storey wood frame building that originally housed 40 acute adult beds and 12 bassinets.
“This would not have become a reality if it was not for the dedication and advocacy of Fr. Anatole Theoret, the Oblate fathers, with approval of the archbishop, along with Dr. Gendreau who had established his practice here in Ste. Rose in the 1930s,” he said.
“They inspired the Sisters of Charity, the Grey Nuns, to take on this challenge of providing hospital services within the Ste. Rose area.”
While the tender to build the hospital was awarded, Brunel said, the sisters were busy collecting donations to fill the new building. Back then, he said, a bed and bedside table cost $200. Within the first months after opening, 41 patients were served, Brunel noted, and in the first year, over 900 patients were admitted to the hospital.
The need for a new building became evident in the mid-1950s, he said, and construction began in 1956 on the grounds of the existing hospital, with the official opening of the 80-bed facility occurring July 11, 1957.
The Grey Nuns have a long history with the community, Brunel said, noting old letters explained the seven founding sisters worked in every department of the hospital, as well as Sister Superior, the pharmacist, the lab and X-ray technician, in dietary and admissions, as an RN, accountant and a laundress.
“But soon they saw the need to fill the professional role of nurses within our hospital. The Sisters of Charity, in particular Sister Yvonne Prevost, started the first Ste. Rose Nursing School in 1945 which ran as an independent school until 1948, when it was amalgamated with the St. Boniface School of Nursing,” he said.
“This is just one of many legacies they have left within our community. Today we are blessed to have amongst us today, seven of these wonderful ladies, some of which have called Ste. Rose home over the years. So welcome home sisters. Thank you for your hard work, dedication, commitment to this community and surrounding area, but mostly for your legacy of love.”
Attending the celebration were Sister Elaine, Sister Juliette, Sister Therese, Sister Yvonne, Sister Orise, Sister Joanne and Sister Yvette.
Sister Elaine brought greetings and congratulations, pointing out although the sisters responded to the call to establish the hospital, it would not have been possible without the many lay people involved over the years.
“It took more than one group or community to get it off the ground and struggle through the years, while serving those in need in the surrounding communities to the present day,” she said.
In 2003, Brunel explained, the Grey Nuns made a difficult decision to transfer the ownership of the Ste. Rose Hospital to its present owners, the Catholic Health Corporation of Manitoba (CHCM). CEO Dan Lucier noted the spirit of community, compassion and service lives on today through the many women and men who continue to be involved with the work of Ste. Rose Hospital.
“And that’s most of all of you in the room here today, so the Catholic Corporation is just really proud to count Ste. Rose Hospital among its many communities we service,” he added.
Bishop Gagnon blessed a new plaque that will be placed on the hospital grounds, commenting the plaque is a reminder of the 80 years of faith-based health care in the region.
Hospital board chair Shirley Kendzierski added, the sisters appointed the first advisory board of local residents in 1959. The first lay chairperson was William Mason of Mackinak, she said, and in 1960 with the incorporation of the Hospital Act, the advisory board continued its work.
“In 1977 the advisory board was replaced with a board of directors. As in the past, the interweaving of skill and goodwill between the people of the region and the Grey Nuns continued to provide strong direction to the facility,” Kendzierski said, noting when Ste. Rose joined CHCM, the hospital was amalgamated with the Dr. Gendreau Personal Care Home.
“To quote Sister Yvonne Prevost, ‘The future of the Ste. Rose General Hospital is clear, it will continue to serve in the spirit of Christian charity addressing the needs of the population and adapting as it has in the past with changes brought on by regulation and evolution.’ And we know that we’re in that time again and we will be working at it,” she added.
It is well known the Grey Nuns have always been extremely hard workers, Dan Delaurier, board chair of the Prevost Foundation said, explaining when the Ste. Rose Hospital was incorporated in 1960, the government allowed hospitals to retain part of its accumulated annual surplus.
“As mentioned earlier the Grey Nuns were very astute and made sure they never wasted any money. And under the auspices of some good lawyers and accountants they were instructed to transfer their yearly hospital surplus to a separate bank account. This is how the Prevost Foundation came into being,” he said, adding most of the Prevost Foundation funds are invested in Winnipeg Foundation managed funds.
“We are so grateful to the Grey Nuns, for all the money they were able to scrounge and save back then and for transferring the surplus funds of the Ste. Rose Hospital to the Prevost Foundation. Had it not been for the diligence of the Grey Nuns of years gone by, our hospital would be in dire straits today.”
Brunel acknowledged past and present members of the Ste. Rose Ladies Hospital Auxiliary, explaining it began in 1957. He also thanked various individuals, community groups, organizations and businesses in the area who have supported and continue to work within the hospital.
While he was not the first doctor in Ste. Rose, Brunel paid tribute to Dr. René-Lionel Gendreau, who served the community from May 1930 until his retirement in 1969.
“For his legacy of untiring service, world renowned assessment and surgical skills and always accepting the quiet dignity of the task before him, many times above and beyond the call of duty. Not only does the Ste. Rose Hospital have a space of honour for Dr. Gendreau, through a donation of his equipment displayed in the cabinets in our hallways, and some of it is on display here today, but the University of Manitoba has his name listed as one of the founding physicians of Manitoba,” he said, acknowledging members of the Gendreau family in attendance.
Dr. David O’Hagan noted Dr. Gendreau was a remarkable man who worked alone for almost 40 years.
“I work with a team, a big team of family physicians. I have no idea how he did it for all those years,” he said.
“So while this is a celebration of 80 years of a building, it’s a celebration of people who have worked and still work here. And, of course, the people who support them at home, the community at large and I congratulate all of you for making this happen.”
Wrapping up the afternoon, executive director and care team manager of the Ste. Rose Health Center and the Winnipegosis and District Health Centre, Michelle Quenelle said, Ste. Rose hospital has been a pillar in the area for many years.
She gave thanks to those who live out the mission statement and values of care compassion and commitment on an everyday basis.
“I believe that if the sisters were to walk down the hallways today, they would smile and be very proud of the continued efforts of our staff to work together as a strong team. To serve and provide the best possible care to all who walk through our doors,” Quenelle said.

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M. A. Nyquist
REPORTER
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