Monday, October 26, 2015

Closer to Home

“Did you know we’re not getting enough people out to the activities here at Penn Hall? No one goes on the outings and no one comes for coffee anymore. Did you know that they serve coffee here in the mornings? There’s also leaves and dinner outings that you can go to if you ask the Penn Hall staff. There’s swimming on Wednesday nights and softball on Thursday nights. There’s bicycling and Indian and Japanese cultural meetings. Have a game of chess or cribbage with Francis. He’s really good at it you know. He’ll play anyone. Check it out and come to Penn Hall.”

The Riverview Reporter, August 1987

During the 1980's, the Riverview Recreation Department offered games, clubs and activities and many of these ran out of Pen Hall.

Life wasn't all fun and games at Riverview though. Patients were encouraged to learn a job skill that would prepare them for life once the returned to life on the outside.

A list of Vocational Services from 1987 includes these job openings:

• Sewing machine operator: repairing diapers in the Vocational Services Workshop

• Office assistant, Henry Esson Young Building

• Activity therapy assistant at Hillside, Fernwood and North Lawn

• Entertainer for Penn Hall Music Therapy

Patients participating in these jobs were paid, an incentive allowance. Starting wage was $30 bi-weekly. If they stayed in the position, they would get raises. Up to $180 a month.

In 1988, Riverview celebrated its 75th anniversary. There were tours and seminars, an 18-float parade, a barbecue and dances over the four-day celebration.

In 1990, the BC Government's Mental Health Initiative was introduced. This was 10-year plan to replace Riverview with smaller, more specialized regional facilities. Some of Riverview's staff and resources were allocated to the different facilities. Riverview would still exist but as a smaller, more specialized centre of excellence.

The Report of the Royal Commission on Health Care and Costs - "Closer to Home" - was released the following year and it supported this move.

“Community transfers had a huge impact on Riverview. We had to overcome the doubt that patients could succeed in the community—people were apprehensive here and they were apprehensive in the community, too. In the early days, the community mental health centres did everything they could to manage people but if they couldn’t, they’d call Riverview. And Riverview would do whatever possible to accommodate people. It wasn’t seen as anything exceptional. They were our patients. We’d take care of them, we’d respect them and we wouldn’t judge them.”

Anna Tremere 1967 graduate, Riverview nurse for 37 years

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 people from Riverview had no support later on and most wound up in the downtown eastside

    1. There were a lot of mistakes made during the transition. Mistakes we are still seeing today.