Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Challenges of Change

June 28, 1929. The building of the Female Chronic Building. Photo by the Dominion Photo Co.

Raised beds at Essondale Botanical Garden. Photo taken sometime between 1911 and 1916.

August 10, 1925. Opening of the Essondale Power House.

1914 photo of the tree farm at Essondale. 
All four photos from the City of Vancouver Archives

In 1974, Riverview was officially affiliated with the University of British Columbia - UBC - and its status as a teaching hospital was formalized. In the following decades, the hospital provided university and college students with valuable training and experience. Many of the psychiatrists trained at Riverview went on to hold university positions. Through this affiliation, the growth of research at the hospital was encouraged.

Mental health services in the community was growing since 1964 and by 1974, an active partnership between the community and Riverview was established. Both shared the responsibility for delivering much needed services.

The Greater Mental Health Service ran 30 mental health centres and 9 Community Care Teams at that time. Across the province, outpatient programs at these centres served more than 13,000 people and the Community Care teams provided more intensive treatment to 1,900 patients. Three hundred boarding homes provided respite to 1,700 people.

Several psychiatrists had joint appointments at the clinics and the hospital, thus encouraging the links between Riverview and the community. General hospitals in BC began to open in-patient psychiatric wards.

By 1976, The Leader was a monthly publication featuring activity schedules, listing of church services, upcoming movies, limericks, poems, and news of retiring staff. There was also news from the wards including this little tidbit from February 1976.

On Tuesday morning, December 23, 1975, patient L.G. (D3) playing cribbage with nurse’s aide, Mrs. Ida Meyes, got a perfect twenty-nine cribbage hand. His only comment was one of stunned silence.” 

What’s in a Volunteer? 

“A new nurse asked a volunteer, “What do you do?” the volunteer turned to a patient and asked, “What do I do?” The patient replied, “Oh, she comes every week and makes life worthwhile for a short time.” 

From the June 1976 Little Leader

The move was on to integrate patients into society and this presented challenges for Riverview. By the late 1970's, the system of setting up boarding homes to house the patients had evident problems.

“Many patients who were moved to the community had spent many years here. There was a belief at the time that these poor people were being locked up in this place—we should send them back to the community, put them in a group home and they’ll be okay. It was okay for some people, probably a minority. Many needed much more. There should have been more psycho-social support for these people in the community. That part was missing.”

John Higenbottam
Vice-President, Clinical Services, 1980-1992

Thanks to the PDF, Riverview, A Legacy of Care and Compassion for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill


  1. The pictures were great and thanks for sharing a bit of Vancouver history. I was never one to understand history but have a huge thirst for it now. See you on the bright side.

    1. I would like to think I have stimulated your interest in history. Glad you liked the photos