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Provincial Hospital for the Insane Ponoka
Before Alberta existed as a Canadian province, citizens of the North-West Territories deemed to suffer from mental illness were sent to an asylum in Brandon, Manitoba for treatment. However, in 1908, it became clear that the burgeoning population (alongside a growing number of psychiatric patients and "mental defectives") meant that a new institution must be built. The provincial government began constructing Alberta's first mental health institution in Ponoka. The site was deliberately chosen as a rural area - medical advice of the day required fresh air and immersion in nature as remedies for troubled minds. The hospital was also self-sustaining, using gardens to supply its own food. The hospital officially opened in 1911 as the Alberta Hospital for the Insane, and construction finished in 1912.
During the early and mid-twentieth century, this institution was the primary mental health institution of the province. When the hospital first opened, very few nurses worked there, with little knowledge of psychiatric nursing. However, when Dr. Baragar was appointed Acting Superintendent of the hospital, he also established a nursing school. Dr. Baragar, a psychiatrist from Brandon Mental Hospital, strongly felt that nursing care of "the complexities of the mind" should be a profession in its own right. Click here for more...
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The main building of the centre was built in 1913, and was meant to be an Alberta ladies' college.
It was converted into a soldiers' sanitorium after World War I (WWI), before 1923 when the building was reorganized yet again. Many of the soldiers in care at the sanitorium were sent to Oliver Mental Hospital. The building then became the Provincial Training School. The school was necessary to meet a huge demand in Alberta to house "mentally defective" children and teenagers.
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In this space you normally would see our forum. This had been a hold over from earlier days before we had a Facebook page. Just prior to our server issues regular users had been barely using the forum with the majority of new posts from anonymous users asking genealogy questions or spammers. The old forum software does not work with our new version while the new forum software does not carry over old comments to the new forum. As a result, the forum will be discontinued in favor of our Facebook page. If you have questions or comments you can ask them there.
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The following eleven minute video, created by Vox, details the history of Hart Island and how recently it came to national attention due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the resting place of many who died as a result of the virus.