Woodstock Hospital for Epileptics
|Woodstock Hospital for Epileptics|
|Building Style||Cottage Plan|
Late in the 1800s, the Ontario Government began to establish and operate a series of Ontario Hospitals (O.H.s) to care for the mentally ill and the mentally retarded. O.H. Woodstock was built on 100 acres, north of Woodstock, on the west side of what is now Highway 59, specifically to look after epileptic patients from all over Ontario: epilepsy was then considered a mental illness.
When first opened on April 22, 1906, it was called the Hospital for Epileptics, Woodstock, and consisted of two cottages, ‘May’ and ‘George’, plus an administration building. It admitted 58 adult and child patients in its first year.
Many epileptic patients also suffered from mental illness or retardation. As a part of therapy, the hospital grounds included a working farm on which fruit, vegetables and grain were grown, and patients were given tasks according to their abilities. A dairy herd was added in 1919.
By 1932, the hospital had expanded to 324 acres, had 486 patients and a staff of 120, including a professional staff of doctors and nurses.
Tuberculosis had long been a problem up to the mid 1900s and its usual treatment was rest, good food and isolation. This highly infectious respiratory disease spread easily among the mentally ill and mentally challenged patients of the crowded Ontario Hospitals. In response, a Chest Diseases Division was added in 1939, in new buildings on the east side of Hwy 59. It included isolation wards and laboratory facilities for TB diagnosis. The epilepsy division remained on the west side of Hwy 59.
Many of the O.H. Woodstock staff joined up at the start of World War II. At its end, all returning veterans who were ex-employees of the hospital were immediately rehired; or jobs found for the spouses of those who had been killed overseas.
TB continued as a serious problem, and a four storey North Park Building was built and opened in 1958, to expand the facilities of the Chest Division. By 1960, the two divisions of Ontario Hospital Woodstock had over 1500 patients and 860 staff.
After medical advances in epilepsy treatment, and the Mental Health Act of 1968, the Epileptic Division was closed and its remaining epileptic patients sent home or elsewhere. Its facilities were renamed the Adult Retardation Unit and now only handled the treatment and training of the mentally retarded. The Chest Division was closed in 1972 after the apparent success of anti-T.B. drugs and treatments.
In 1974, responsibility for the care of the mentally ill and mentally challenged passed from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Community and Social Services: Ontario Hospital now became the Oxford Regional Centre. At that time, it served 715 mentally-challenged adults. Over time its patients were transferred to the care of other institutions, returned to their families, or released on their own. The Oxford Regional Centre finally closed in 1996 and its buildings were demolished in 1999.
There are now support groups that assist the mentally ill or challenged who try to manage their own lives. However, more deadly strains of TB are now appearing that are resistant to the anti-TB drugs used so far.
Main Image Gallery: Woodstock Hospital for Epileptics