The Day We Lost Hand in Carleton Place — Carleton Place District and Memorial Hospital



During the last week of May in 1980 a crowd of 350 people jammed into the Carleton Place town hall auditorium one evening. They listened and left angry after their mission was to find out why the directors decided to close the four-bed obstetrics unit at the end of June that year. They never really got a straight answer.

All the facts brought out at that meeting supported the decision to refer maternity cases to the Ottawa Civic Hospital. Meanwhile “back at the legislative ranch” Ontario Health Minister Dennis Timbrell said he too supported the closure of the Carleton Place obstetrical unit.

Timbrell insisted that an obstetrical unit was not handling enough births, and the current obstetrical unit might actually jeopardize the health of newly born Carleton Place area babies. Births had dropped in 1980 from the last 20 year period of 165 per year to 113. A quarter of these births were being done by cesarean section, and that concerned the powers to be.


  Brenda Hall-Carleton Place– May we remember her. The Carleton Place & District a Memorial Hospital Foundation has a wonderful bursary fund in Brenda Halls name that supports local CP students heading into post secondary Nursing programs.

Dr. Cliff Dobb added quickly that it wasn’t that the skill of local doctors had declined, but the hospitals in Ottawa had improved dramatically. They now had better equipped centres, fetal heart monitors manned by trained staff enabling more natural deliveries. Reverend Bob Hill opposed closing the local unit and questioned the decision, arguing that some communities of comparable size had fought the Ministry of Health to keep their obstetrics unit open and won.

Our Carleton Place hospital board made its decision solely on the basis of a recommendation from the medical fraternity. But, with no decision from the community, the decision was divisive and destructive said Rev Hill.

A  Carleton Place resident gynecologist associated with the Queensway Carleton hospital said the decision was based on the principal that many lives as possible should be saved at birth. The Civic Hospital also assured everyone that their obstetrics unit was being expanded, and that staff members were anxious to do all they couold to ease local concerns about giving birth in a strange hospital.

On the plus side the administrator of the Carleton Place hospital, Frank Shikurski, said the Carleton Place hospital would be pushing to provide better services with particular attention to emergency and out patient services. No matter what was said, it came as little consolation to those whose gut feeling was still that their community hospital would be a poorer facility without a unit where local mothers could have babies. Are we any better off today?


Karen Dorman- I remember Dr. ROY telling me that they deserved an unbroken nights sleep. He was just one of the Drs. that didn’t want to do it anymore. I agree it was funny how Almonte always seemed to get the money. At the beginning the Drs. here wouldn’t refer patients to Almonte but that changed quickly.

Ted Hurdis  oh I know and most of the Dr.s that let it go didn’t even stay practising here.😡
Gail Grabe The “theory” at the time was that Obstetrics was becoming a specialty requiring obstetricians and that G.P.’s were no longer able to handle that service in future. Complications could lead to legal problems etc., that was the thinking at the time. Ottawa had all the bells and whistles, neonatal care, equipment, specialists. So sad we lost it.
Jim Amy Kirkpatrick Thank God both my kids were born in CP 1976 and 1978. Csection with Dr Roy and Dr Ferguson. So blessed

Marilyn White At that time a lot of people were going to Ottawa to have an obstetrician and when not doing enough birthing it was more risky for the Drs.and better equipment was becoming necessary to prevent doing cesareans.

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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