Royal Columbian Hospital and the gold rush

Royal Columbian Hospital

fundraising for Royal Columbian Hospital, New Westminster BC

Where could gold seekers go if they became injured or got sick? The only hospital was in Victoria. It didn’t take long for people to demand a hospital in the mainland colony of British Columbia.

Discussion about establishing a hospital in New Westminster began in 1861. Every person entering the colony was required to pay $1 for the purpose of providing hospital accommodation. It was rumored that $7,000 had been raised in excess of what had been required to support the mainlanders in the Victoria Hospital. Requests for the government to apply the excess monies to build a hospital in New Westminster were ignored.

An editorial in the April 4, 1861 issue of the British Columbian newspaper:

“Surely $7000 on hand, and more constantly coming in would warrant the erection of necessary buildings being commenced immediately. We have, so far, been obliged to use the miserable [hospital] they have in Victoria, and have paid some $1,000 towards its maintenance, a sum sufficient to buy out the whole affair; and if we should have occasion to send any of our sick there, the chances of their obtaining admission would, we understand, be very small.

In the meantime, public meetings were held and discussions by politicians and the press followed. People were impatient to get a hospital and it was concluded that they would have to start with fundraising themselves, rather than wait for the government to do something. By December of 1861, $1,000 was raised for a hospital. “The institution will be emphatically colonial, on the broadest and most liberal basis – open to all without distinction in regard to nation, creed, or colour.”

Committees were struck and a plan for building a hospital was laid out with the help of one of the doctors for the Royal Engineers, Dr. Sedall.  He estimated the cost of building a
hospital capable of accommodating 20 patients was £1600 pounds.

In April 1862, funds were being raised for a general hospital which would serve the mainland colony of British Columbia. Governor Douglas himself gave a donation of a hundred dollars.

The Royal Columbian Hospital was officially opened in the fall of 1862.