Shaughnessy Hospital – dedication and innovation in war and peace

For over 75 years, Vancouver’s Shaughnessy Hospital served veterans and civilians of British Columbia, providing medical care and rehabilitation services, and becoming a research and teaching centre. Library and Archives Canada’s photos and other records of the hospital document this evolving role, with images including patient care and rehabilitation, buildings and equipment, and staff and volunteers.

The hospital opened in 1917 as a convalescent home for First World War veterans. By 1919 it had increased its capacity for medical services and patient care to become a military hospital.

A black-and-white photograph of uniformed men and nurses seated in front of an elaborate Elizabethan entrance.

Original staff of Shaughnessy Military Hospital – [1919?], copied 1952 (e011156698-v8)

In 1941, a new 250-bed main hospital building opened, the first such hospital to be built by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Other facilities and additions were later constructed over the course of the hospital’s history.

A black-and-white aerial view of a building complex.

Shaughnessy hospital buildings 1944 aerial (e011156699-v8)

In 1947 the George Derby Health and Occupational Centre opened in Burnaby to provide long-term intermediate care and rehabilitation services for veterans.

A black-and-white photograph of a construction site showing wooden forms and supports.

Burnaby Convalescent Camp [George Derby Centre] construction – administration building in foreground, treatment building at rear February 19, 1946 (e011156697-v8)

Generally, the hospital provided ambulatory care, general acute care, intermediate and extended care, and rehabilitation services for veterans.

A black-and-white photograph of a man using a hammer with his prosthesis to build and assemble two pieces of wood.

A.J. Grieg amputee therapy, January 28, 1946 (e011163800-v8)

The hospital was also a popular destination for many celebrities, officials, entertainers, and royalty, who often went out of their way to visit patients when in Vancouver.

A black-and-white photograph mounted on a piece of a paper showing three men arm-in-arm around a mic. The photo is captioned.

Danny Kaye visit, November 12, 1952 (e011163802-v8)

The Shaughnessy Hospital Ladies’ Auxiliary and other charitable groups raised funds for equipment and supplies, and organized social events and entertainment.

A black-and-white photograph showing a large group of women and a single man around a pool table, some of them leaning over the table and aiming at the cue ball with cues. The photo is captioned.

Presentation of the pool cues donated by Silver Cross Mothers (Air Force), May 8, 1953 (e011163803-v8)

LAC’s records of Shaughnessy Hospital  consist primarily of photographs, as well as a small amount of other material. The hospital maintained its own photographic department, which allowed them to capture images of daily life and events at Shaughnessy, including images of staff, therapy techniques, tools and technology for the disabled, and patient recreation programs.

A black-and-white photograph showing seven men in wheelchairs playing a ball game around a hockey-type net.

Paraplegics’ ball game on roof, August 1, 1947 (e011163801-v8)

By the 1960s and 1970s, Shaughnessy staff began treating civilian patients in ever increasing numbers. In 1974, the hospital was sold to the province of British Columbia for $1. On February 15, 1993, the provincial government announced the closure of Shaughnessy Hospital, with its functions being divided and transferred to other Vancouver area hospitals.

7 thoughts on “Shaughnessy Hospital – dedication and innovation in war and peace

  1. It gives no stats on the number of patients and staff and the differences from year to year or the names of any staff

    • Hello Ms. Abbott,
      If you are interested in a more detailed history of the hospital, the administrative history in the series description (Item ID 196769) contains some more information. The finding aid (38-45) also contains file level descriptions of annual reports, accreditation reports, and individual staff photographs that may help answer your questions. If you need help with more in-depth research questions, I would recommend that you look through these descriptions in Collection Search, or submit a question on the “Ask us a Question” page.

      Good luck in your search!

  2. My great uncle was a double hand amputee and I have read that he starred in a movie “Valiant Company” filmed in the Shaughnessy Hospital can’t find the film looking for help

  3. I have photos that I think are of a fire at Shaughnessy Hospital. Having searched online, I understand that the East wing caught fire on the 20th of September 1919. It would be great if there is anyone who could confirm my photos to be of Shaughnessy Hospital. Also have a photo of a small group of nurses that could be related to this hospital.

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