In response to the gap in medical services, the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) Committee created the Elphinstone Branch of the VON. The first VON nurse, Lillian Wooding, began in 1938. The nurse was expected to provide care from Port Mellon to West Sechelt. Her duties included home care, school health services, health education, and prenatal/well baby clinics. The VON services continued throughout the 1940s and '50s, with the cost of visits reaching a maximum of $1. During this time the VON employed one other nurse, which allowed services to be divided. One nurse would care for Port Mellon to Sechelt, and one West Sechelt to Pender Harbour. In 1952, the provincial health department sent over a Public Health Nurse to take over care within the schools. The growth of the provincial health services during this time resulted in a decrease in the need for the VON. Eventually, a lack of funding led to the decision to close the Elphinstone Branch. The Victorian Order of Nurses ended their services to the Sunshine Coast in 1956.
The community was quickly outgrowing the small rural hospital of Garden Bay and the need for a more centrally located hospital was recognized. According to Dr. Swan in House Calls by Float Plane, "Halfmoon Bay was considered the center of the lower Sunshine Coast, [and] the population hub was in Roberts Creek.” So in 1964, St. Mary’s Hospital moved to Sechelt. The new hospital was built on land generously donated by the shíshálh Nation, consisted of 35 beds and had a 13 bed nurse’s residence. However, as Dr. Paetkau notes in his novel, “the new hospital was already proving inadequate for the Sunshine Coast’s growing population”. By 1968, the number of patient days in the hospital had almost tripled (from 4,926 in '64 to 13,464). Although, the move from Garden Bay to Sechelt did increase the availability of St. Mary’s Hospital services throughout the coast. Since then, it has continued to expand. The shíshálh, or Sechelt, Hospital was recently renovated and now has larger emergency, radiology, and maternity departments, single patient rooms, and 44 beds.
At this time, growth on the Sunshine Coast became much more rapid. This development allowed an influx of medical professionals to the coast, as there were multiple employment opportunities. Medical care on the Sunshine Coast in the next few decades became a bit trickier to research. We already had a community hospital, clinics in Gibsons, Sechelt and Madeira Park (and multiple clinics that opened in the Sechelt area, mostly in the late '70s-'90s). As the population increased and communities developed, medical care grew. The once isolated, rural community of the Sunshine Coast has come a long way from the small hospital of the 1930s. The evolution of medical care on the Sunshine Coast is largely due to the community's dedication in implementing change- and our hardworking healthcare professionals. Without the efforts of these early Sunshine Coast residents, we wouldn’t have the access to the healthcare that we do today.
Are you interested in learning more about local history? Drop by the SCMA with your research requests; we would be happy to help you look through a wide range of sources!