On November 27, 1924, the Civic Hospital opened its doors to great fanfare. The world had just emerged from a pandemic and the community rallied together to make this new hospital a reality.
Though he was roundly ridiculed at the time, Mayor Harold Fisher pushed hard for the construction of the Civic and for a thoroughly progressive vision of medicine.
That defining moment in history went on to improve the lives of every citizen of Ottawa and helped lay the foundation for a century of healthcare advances in Canada.
Celebrating 100 moments
15/100 – The Civic in Lego
DID YOU KNOW? Dr. Lucie Filteau, an anesthesiologist at The Ottawa Hospital, spent five months building a Lego replica of the Civic Campus! Her replica includes everything from an operating room and ICU to a colonoscopy unit and pathology lab.
Dr. Filteau even took the exhibit to an international LEGO event in Denmark, where it was “seen and admired by several LEGO designers,” she says, “including the Executive Chairman of LEGO — a very cool moment for me.”
Dr. Filteau’s inspiration for building a Lego Civic Campus was born out of her love for her job.
14/100 – Slam Dunk!
DID YOU KNOW? In the 1950s, Civic Hospital nurses had their own basketball team at the YMCA. They were a slam dunk on the courts and on their wards!
13/100 – Nursing shoe toss
If you’re ever scuba diving in the Ottawa River near the Champlain Bridge, you may come across a bunch of ugly black shoes and stockings at the bottom of the river.
They belonged to nursing students from the 1950s and ‘60s who attended the Ottawa Civic Hospital School of Nursing and would toss their “dreaded black shoes” in the water to celebrate their “graduation” into their third and final year, when they were finally allowed to wear white shoes and stockings. The ceremony accompanying the transition was called “Going into White.”
Ottawa resident Donna Anderton was among those nurses who performed the shoe toss before it was eventually stopped. “They closed the Champlain Bridge for us,” recalls Donna, who graduated from the Civic Hospital School of Nursing in 1963. “For the first two years, our uniform consisted of a big, baggy pink thing with OCH (Ottawa Civic Hospital) written on it, a bib, apron, collar, and those black shoes and stockings.”
The pink smock remained part of the uniform throughout those three years, but the white shoes and stockings signified a transition into the real world of nursing.
Along with the shoe toss, Donna remembers a few other fun facts about those early years in nurses’ residence, including a rule that gum could only be chewed in the privacy of your room, with the door shut.
12/100 – Ottawa Ankle Rules
1992 was the year Dr. Ian Stiell put Ottawa (and its ankles) on the map through his development of a new set of guidelines, called the Ottawa Ankle Rules. The guidelines were designed to help fellow emergency physicians decide whether a patient with foot or ankle pain needed an X-ray to diagnose a possible bone fracture.
At that time, about 2,000 patients were visiting the Civic’s emergency room with ankle injuries each year.
It was found that Dr. Stiell’s guidelines reduced the number of ankle X-rays without causing doctors to miss ankle fractures. Patients also spent less time in emergency rooms.
Dr. Stiell’s rules became adopted by hospitals in other parts of Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. The Ottawa Ankle Rules even appeared on prime-time television in an episode of the American medical drama series ER.
11/100 – Decades of volunteering
As a young woman in India, Sheila Bhatia had seen her fair share of tragedies. The separation of India and Pakistan caused her family to become refugees, and her husband passed away leaving her with three young children, including an infant who died shortly after. Then, her toddler Veena, fell and injured her spine requiring two years of hospitalization.
One of Veena’s doctors suggested Sheila consider nursing as a profession, and after graduating with flying colours, she began her nursing career in India before emigrating to England.
However, the racial discrimination she experienced there prompted a change, and after seeing an advertisement for nurses in Canada, she applied for a job at the Civic Hospital. In February 1967, she and Veena moved to Ottawa, and Sheila spent the next 18 years at the Civic until her retirement in 1985, when she began devoting her time as a volunteer at the hospital.
A decade later, Veena retired from her career as a public servant and her mother encouraged her to join her as volunteer at the Civic. The mother-daughter duo generously gave their time and philanthropic support for years until, at the age of 90 and in failing health, Sheila reluctantly hung up her blue volunteer vest after 30 years. Sadly, she passed away in 2018.
Veena continues to volunteer at the Civic each week and remains a generous donor. “The hospital has basically been our home from the time we came. It was good to us when we arrived, so volunteering and donating was how we could give back.”
9/100 – Dr. John Puddicombe is shot
Dr. John F. Puddicombe, who served as Chief of Obstetrics at the Civic Hospital for many years, is best known as the doctor who delivered Princess Margriet of the Netherlands while the Dutch Royal Family was sheltering in Canada during the Second World War. But he made headlines many years before that in a terrifying attack in Montreal that left him with two bullet holes — and a story to tell.
It was May 8, 1927. Dr. Puddicombe was interning at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital and was in his private bedroom in what was then called “the doctors’ flat” when a former intern, Dr. Frank Brown came in, locked the door, and fired four shots at Puddicombe.
One of the bullets apparently lodged in Puddicombe’s Gray’s Anatomy textbook, which he’d held up to defend himself. But two others found their mark — in his neck and right arm. Tragically, Brown then turned the gun on himself. Puddicombe staggered into the corridor, calling for help, and was rushed to surgery. He ultimately recovered from his injuries and went on to have a distinguished career.