A major era of Clearwater’s history has ended with the recent demolition of the old Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital.
“It served a very important function in this town for many, many years,” commented Mayor John Harwood. “It helped build this community into what it is today.”
The hospital officially opened on Sept. 23, 1972. It was replaced by the new Dr. Helmcken Memorial, which opened on Sept. 13, 2002.
The old hospital, which consisted of several portable buildings connected together, has remained empty ever since.
A more modern addition next to the old hospital that presently houses the local Ministry of Children and Families office was not demolished.
As chair of the Wells Gray Hospital Society, Harwood played a major role in getting the original hospital built.
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears from a great many people went into it,” he recalled. “If you called a meeting, lots of people would show up. There was never any opposition.”
Before the hospital was built, the community had no permanent doctor and no drug store, he said.
One thing Clearwater had before a hospital was a hospital auxiliary.
Formed in 1970, the organization was an important factor in getting the hospital built, Harwood said.
A similar community effort went into getting the new hospital built almost exactly 30 years after the first.
“It’s a beautiful building,” Harwood said of the new hospital. “We were fortunate to get it in under the wire. Right after that, the government stopped building new hospitals for eight or 10 years.”
Next health-care project on the agenda will be a campus of care, the mayor said.
This would provide a level of care intermediate between the independent living at Evergreen Acres seniors housing and the extended care at Dr. Helmcken.
Evergreen Acres plans to take the first steps towards the campus of care concept by constructing more seniors housing, he said.
Providing a full range of assisted living options would be expensive and would require a large client base to be viable, Harwood said, but there might be ways that such a campus of care could be brought to Clearwater.