RIH AT 100: Where pucks now fly, patients did lie
This month marks the 100th anniversary of Royal Inland Hospital on its present site at Third Avenue and Columbia Street, but the institution is actually nearly 30 years older.
What would become RIH started at the corner of Third Avenue and Lorne Street — the land occupied today by Interior Savings Centre.
The building — the first hospital in B.C.’s Interior — came about only after a series of public meetings in 1884 at Kamloops’ first courthouse, a log building on what is now West Victoria Street.
Completed in November 1885 at a cost of $3,900 — more than $1,000 under budget — Kamloops’ original hospital was nothing more than a two-storey wood-frame house with wrap-around balconies on both levels, sitting on one acre of riverfront property.
The first medical officer was Dr. Simon J. Tunstall, who had in 1883 been appointed the local Company Doctor by Canadian Pacific Railway.
It didn’t hurt that he was, at the time, the only physician in town.
Tunstall’s annual salary in the first years of the hospital’s life was $400. He was forced to resign in 1887 after falling ill and choosing to focus on his private practice.
He was replaced by Dr. Ed Furrer, who received a yearly salary of $800.
That was also the year the hospital employed its first female nurse, Matron Eleanor Potter.
Renovations on the building began in 1891, creating a 15-bed hospital with five wards.
In February 1896, Canada’s Parliament passed a bill incorporating the institution as Royal Inland Hospital. In May of that year, work began on a women’s ward — a separate building just west of the main structure.
However, 1896 also brought controversy for the newly named RIH. Complaints were common — alleging delays in admissions and early discharge, as well as a lack of a palliative-care facility.
Furrer — who had by then become a popular figure in Kamloops society, serving as an alderman and school trustee in addition to his medical duties — died in 1898. He was replaced by Dr. Arthur Procter, who earned a salary of $1,000 per year.
Procter became the centre of another hospital controversy himself in 1904, when Kamloops’ three other physicians appealed to the local health board for a “change in systems” to allow them greater access to RIH’s facilities.
The doctors felt Procter, as the only practitioner drawing a paycheque from the hospital, had an unfair advantage over other doctors.
For two months, the controversy dominated local headlines. The liberal Kamloops Sentinel — under editor Dr. Mark Wade, one of the city’s other physicians — argued dirty politics on the part of the health board, while the conservative Kamloops Standard took Procter’s side.
A ruling after a subsequent provincial investigation gave other local doctors more freedom to use RIH.
Procter left Kamloops a short time later to start a clinic in Vancouver and was succeeded by his former assistant, Dr. J.S. Burris.
Also in 1904, RIH constructed an isolation ward on Mission Flats, meant to house patients with infectious diseases. The building proved inadequate and would eventually be replaced by a larger brick structure on Columbia Street.
The following year, 1905, saw the construction of the Trafalgar Wing — an expansion that doubled the number of beds at RIH.
By then, a nurse’s training school was up and running at the hospital. Amy Taylor, the first graduate, received her designation in 1907.
But, the old building on Lorne Street, despite two decades of seemingly constant renovations, was in need of a replacement.
Prior to 1910, a campaign had begun in Kamloops to erect a new RIH.
It was completed at its present-day location in time for the city’s centennial celebrations of 1912.