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Surrey's Pioneer Health Services

Surrey, like most of the communities in the Fraser Valley had limited early health care. Neighbours helped out neighbours in case of accident, illness or child birth. Many local women, like Mary Shannon, were very experienced in child birth and could be called to act as a midwives. Serious cases or surgical cases were taken to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster where a doctor was available. A G.G. Fife practiced medicine in the northeast corner of Surrey from 1905 on. He was a medical doctor who was never licensed in BC. His daughter, Mrs. Barbara Fife Booth, told the following story of her pioneer father.

My father was G.G. Fife, MD. He came from a good family in Ontario and that is where he got his medical degree. He never did get a license to practice medicine in British Columbia. I don't know why? He farmed in Langley first and in 1898 he married Mary Elizabeth Speirs. She taught in the first old Port Kells School. In 1905, when I was five years old, we came to a farm in Surrey. Art Knapp has that place now for his nursery stock.
Father always helped people with his knowledge of medicine: logging accidents, injuries on farms, women having babies; but he didn't operate on people. If they needed that he sent them to New Westminster or Vancouver. I wasn't very old when I would help Mother get rags and sugar bags and bleach them out and boil them to make bandages. We used to keep them in glass jars. Father used to gather herbs and make his own medicines, like liniment and cough syrup. He couldn't get anesthetics to he carried a bottle or two of whiskey in his saddle bags. He did dental work and veterinary work too.
I remember he had three chamois bags, one for his medical things, one for his dental instruments, and one for his veterinary stuff. Father couldn't see anyone or anything suffer. He'd go as far as fifty or sixty miles on horseback if someone sent for him. Of course he couldn't charge, and people were poor anyway. Sometimes they gave him money or some venison or something. Surrey Story. G. Fern Treleaven p63

Health Officers

In 1888, four people died as a small pox epidemic was going through the Municipality. Henry T. Thrift was appointed the first Health Officer of Surrey. Mr. Thrift was not a medical doctor but he was appointed to organize a vaccination program that Surrey Council paid for.

In 1895, Council introduced the Physician Aid By-Law and appointed Dr. D. Sutherland as the first Medical Health officer in Surrey at a salary of $200.00 a year. Dr. A.L. Kendal was appointed to the office in 1903 and held the post until 1905. He was succeeded by Dr. Wilson Herald. Dr. E.H. McEwan became the medical health officer in 1907 and was succeeded by Dr. F.D. Sinclair in 1913. Dr. Sinclair came to Surrey in 1911, and except for a period of service during the First World War, he continued to practice in Surrey until his death in 1952.

In 1940, Surrey's population was approximately 15,000. There was one doctor, Dr. Sinclair, and one VON nurse to service the population. The rapidly expanding population had greatly increased the health care load.

VON - Victorian Order of Nurses

In 1937 the Victorian Order of Nurses came into Surrey to provide much needed nursing and home care. In January 1938, Phyllis Bond was designated the first VON for Surrey. She soon began well baby clinics throughout the Municipality. In 1941 Nurse Bond left to be married, and was succeeded by Nurse Mary Martin, and Nurse Bodley. VON services were much in demand for caring for the aged, infirm and chronically ill. Nurses Clara Gould and Mrs. J. Urquhart served White Rock during the 1950s. The VON staff in Surrey grew and was supported by a very active Women's Auxiliary. In the 1970s Provincial Government policy saw private delivery of health care phased out. Thus after 37 years of splendid service in home nursing care, the VON was phased out.

Resident Doctors

Between the World Wars, Surrey had two population focuses; the Cloverdale area and White Rock District. Cloverdale had the advantage of having the residing Medical Health Officer, Dr. Sinclair. In addition, by the 1940s a resident doctor was established in Langley to whom Cloverdale residents had relatively easy access. The sparsely populated North Surrey had access to medical services in New Westminster. The other population focus was the White Rock District. There were a number of attempts by Doctors to set up practices in White Rock, but the small population which declined in the winter season, made it difficult to eke out a satisfactory living. Dr. George Sparks attempted to establish a practice between 1938 and 1942 but did not succeed. During the 20s and 30s many White Rock residents used the services of Blaine's Dr. Franckum who established his practice in 1926 and serviced the region for 18 years. It was not until the end of World War II that White Rock had a large enough permanent population to sustain a full-time medical doctor.

In the post war period Dr. William Sager established his practice in the White Rock Hotel, and later moved to a building in front of the hotel. In 1950, Dr. Sager was appointed acting medical officer for Surrey as Dr. Sinclair was ill. Dr. Sager died suddenly in September of 1953.

Dr. Will Sager intended to be a medical missionary but his wife Hettie could not bear to take her children to China where he was to work. He worked as the Public Health Officer for Burnaby from 1931-1943, and after that at Wallace's Shipyards as the doctor then a short posting at Pender Harbour as they had no doctor.
He retired in 1945 to his Crescent Beach home which was built a few years earlier (the family had been renting summer homes each year since 1927). He still needed an income so opened a practice in White Rock to become the first doctor there. He also had a dispensary in his Crescent Beach home. He became a private physician and surgeon as well as district coroner, until more doctors moved out to the area. Dr. Sager died in 1953 of a stroke at the age of 66 years.
Ocean Parker, Special Heritage Edition. September 2000. "The Sager Saga: A Family History" by Arthur Sager 1998. from Bruce Morrison, grandson. Research by Shirley Stonier.

Dr. Thomas (Tom) Blades opened a practice in the Cloninger Hotel in 1946 after his discharge from the RCAF. Dr. Alan (Al) Hogg joined Dr. Blades in practice late in 1946 and eventually they moved to the Medical Legal Building on Vidal Street just north of Washington Avenue. Dr. Hogg succeeded Dr. Sager as coroner for Surrey and after White Rock's succession would fill that role for the City. Dr. Blades retired in 1973, while Dr. Hogg retired in 1979.

Dr. Hogg recalled that his routine in early years consisted of traveling to New Westminster's Royal Columbian Hospital each morning for patient rounds, returning to his White Rock office to see patients during the afternoon, and finishing with house calls in the evening. Years of Promise: White Rock 1858 to 1958 - Lorraine Ellenwood.

Other Doctors who set up early practices in the White Rock District were:
Dr. Ken Middleton; he joined Blades and Hogg in practice in 1957.
Dr. Biro; opened his practice in 1953 in an office on Buena Vista Avenue.
Dr. Waterman; open an office in the Fennell Block on Johnston Road in 1954.
Dr. E.P. Robin; opened his practice in 1956 in an office on Buena Vista Avenue.
Drs. Philip and Mariri Narod – opened their practice on January 13, 1959 at 1227 Johnson Road in a second story walk up above a Real Estate office. The office had been build by Art Wahl as a dentist office, but they adapted. This location was across the road from the White Rock Elementary playground.


Gertrude McMillan

The earliest nursing care was provided by Mrs. J.D. (Gertrude) McMillan who used her nursing experience to care for the sick in their homes in the White Rock region. In 1924 she was recognized as assistant to Dr. Sinclair. In time she began to take some patients into her home on Prospect Avenue thereby providing the first hospital service (1927) in South Surrey. She continued with her nursing until she retired in 1951.

The need for a hospital became a necessity when in late 1946 Surrey was served notice that the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster would no longer service Surrey patients. On January 5, 1947 the Surrey Memorial Hospital Society was formed to assist in raising the necessary financing for a hospital building. This was the beginning of what might be called the Hospital War. For a period of time various groups of citizens fought among themselves over a site for the new hospital. As a result, on May 22, 1947 the White Rock Hospital Society was formed to have a stronger voice in where the hospital was to be located and ensure a hospital was built and maintained in the White Rock District. With this in mind a women's auxiliary was founded on April 29, 1948 to raise building funds. Quickly a succession of neighbourhood groups formed and by November of that year the auxiliary had raised $1,000 for hospital construction. By 1955 the number of auxiliary fund raising groups had reached 14.

In 1950 a Surrey Council commissioned report which recommended the site for a Surrey hospital. The report recommended a central location on Panorama Ridge. As a result the people of White Rock District decided to build their own hospital and backed their intentions with pledges of money, materials and volunteer labour. Local resident, Mrs. Amy Weatherby, donated a five and a half acre site of land on Russell Avenue (15th Avenue) that was valued at $10.000. The Provincial Government gave permission to build a hospital if White Rock could raise one third of the capital cost. Their total would amount to $100,000. Fund raising went into high gear. This was led by the women's auxiliary that conducted a house by house canvas and began an on going program of money raising events. This included opening of their Superfluity Shop.

Superfluity Shop

The Superfluity Shop opened March 18, 1950 in a building donated rent-free by Dr. T.R. Blades and R.J.A. Hogg along with G.W.B. Fraser a local lawyer. The Superfluity Shop has provided a reliable source of revenue for the local hospital to this day.

Superfluity Shop Superfluity Shop

In 2006 the Peace Arch Hospital Superfluity Shop is located at 15163 Prospect Avenue, White Rock.

White Rock District Hospital; Peace Arch Hospital

The ground is broken and the site cleared and prepared for construction of the one level, 45 bed hospital.

White Rock District Hospital opened on August 25, 1954 as a half million dollar, 45 bed hospital. It was a tribute to the fund raising efforts of the community, especially the members of the women's auxiliary who from 1948 to the opening had raised $21,575 for hospital construction. Surrey's first hospital (White Rock District Hospital) would serve the southern half of Surrey from Highway 10 to the US border. In 1957 when White Rock seceded from Surrey the hospital fell within the boundaries of White Rock, the hospital's name, as of 1968, became Peace Arch District Hospital to better reflect the region it served.

The first hospital White Rock District Hospital

White Rock District Hospital opened on August 25, 1954. BC Minister of Health Eric Martin addressed the gathering for the opening.

Hospital Pavillion

The Berkley Building was purchased in 1967 and operated as an extended care unit. This picture was taken in Feb. 2006.

Peace Arch Hospital Peace Arch Hospital

In 1968, the six story building that you see today was constructed and a further 108 acute beds were opened. The contractor was Alvin Narod of Narod Construction, the brother of Dr. Philip Narod. An expansion of the diagnostic and support services took place in 1993, the addition of 150 extended care beds were opened in 1987 within the Weatherby Pavilion, and in 1996, a new 150 bed extended care unit, the Finlay Pavilion, was constructed. The old hospital building was demolished to make way for this expansion. In 1993 the White Rock Hospital Society changed its name to Peace Arch Hospital Foundation. In February 2005 that name was changed again to the Peace Arch Hospital and Community Health Foundation. "It was felt this change better reflects the role the organization plays within the community." Said Foundation chair Kim Karras.

In 2006, the Peace Arch Hospital is an advanced community hospital and provides the community with a range of service including emergency care, general surgery, maternity, pediatrics, internal medicine, diagnostic services, intensive care and long-term care. The PAH has 178 acute beds, 343 extended care beds and is served by over 130 physicians and 1800 health care workers.

Surrey Memorial Hospital

After, 12 years of planning and fund raising, in 1959, Surrey Memorial Hospital on King George Highway in North Surrey opened. It began as a 103 bed general hospital for Medicine, Surgery, Maternity and Pediatrics. By 1970 it had become a modern comprehensive hospital with many more beds to service the growing Municipality.

Opening Surrey Memorial

Pioneer family doctor and Surrey Medical Officer Dr. Fred Sinclair turned the first sod for Surrey memorial Hospital. From the left are shown Tom Brierly, president of Surrey Branch, Canadian Legion; Rev. T.D. Farnett; Dr. Sinclair; Reeve Charles Schultz; Les Ashmore, president of Surrey Junior Chamber of Commerce. This was 12 years before the hospital was completed and opened.

Opening Surrey Memorial Areal of Surrey Memorial

In 2006, Surrey Memorial Hospital functions both as a community hospital and as a referral hospital for residents of neighbouring communities. SMH provides about 420 acute care beds, 186 extended care beds, and has the busiest Emergency Department in Western Canada. Surrey Hospital is a teaching facility and offers thoracic surgery, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, renal and oncology services. It had one of the largest single-room maternity units in Canada and a growing pediatrics department. The Emergency Department was expanded in late 2005 with the addition of a Minor Treatment Unit for less-urgent cases. At the same time, the provincial government announced a significant expansion program to begin in 2007, to include a new Emergency facility, a high-level care facility for premature babies, a new outpatient services and primary care building, and renovations to existing hospital buildings. A 30-bed medical withdrawal facility for people with addictions is now under construction near the hospital. The BC Cancer Agency Fraser Valley Cancer Centre provides care for residents of the Fraser Valley Region from Delta and Surrey east to Hope, and is located adjacent to Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Fraser Health Authority

Surrey Memorial and Peace Arch hospitals are operated by the Fraser Health Authority under the guidance of the BC Ministry of Health.

Fraser Health District

Fraser Health also provides a range of other health services in Surrey, such as funding for more than 850 residential complex care beds and 120 mental health residential beds operated by community partners under contract; public health clinics for mothers and children; seasonal flu vaccination clinics; inspection and licensing of food services businesses, drinking water systems, child care centres and community care facilities; response to public health emergencies; mental health treatment and counseling; addictions treatment and counseling; in-home health care; and group day health programs for seniors.


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