By Mary Flynn, Archivist
I recently had the pleasure of looking into the early history of the Sisters of Charity’s first hospital outside of Nova Scotia. The Sisters founded Immaculata Hospital in rural Westlock, Alberta at the beginning of what would be a time of expansion in the community under Mother Mary Louise Meahan.
On May 22, 1927, Mother Mary Louise sent a telegram to Sister Elizabeth Seton Belwood, Superior of the Halifax Infirmary in Nova Scotia, calling her to Alberta to start a hospital. Sister Elizabeth Seton packed up a case of surgical instruments and left Halifax with Sister Marion Francis Slattery. After a long cross-Canada journey by train, the Sisters arrived in the small town of Westlock, Alberta, 90 km north of Edmonton.
A small wooden building that housed 10 beds served as the temporary site of the hospital. In the first month of operation, the hospital had its first patient, first surgery, and first baby born. By January 1928, the construction of the new hospital, now called Immaculata Hospital, was far enough along that the patients were transferred from the temporary building.
The early years were tough, with tight finances, smallpox outbreaks, and lack of space. At times, some patients paid their hospital bills in produce. The annals recount times of vegetable crops lost to August frost or spring snow.