Rotary Clinic – West Pender Street

Tuberculosis was still a significant disease in Canada in the early 20th Century, although treatment no longer necessarily involved a long stay in an isolated sanatorium. With no national health service, treatment options were often reliant on charity. The Rotary Club of Vancouver was organized in 1913, in affiliation with the International Association. It was a businessmen’s service organization, with men from various professions joining to raise funds for community projects. Early efforts of the Vancouver Rotary Club were directed at tuberculosis relief, and in 1917, it was decided to establish a free health clinic.

The building was approved in 1918, designed by J A Benzie and built by Baynes and Horie at a cost of $48,000. It was the built on a site the permit referenced as the ‘old hospital site’. There were two earlier buildings that had served as the city hospital until a new building was constructed in Fairview, (today it’s VGH). They were still standing, but repurposed, when this building was constructed, but the first brick building, constructed in 1888, had already been demolished by 1911 and this building was constructed where it had stood, a block to the east of the Central School.

B.C.’s per capita death rate from TB was the highest in Canada, so the new clinic, which opened in 1919, was badly needed. The staff included a medical director, two nurses, and a technician. In addition, there were two “district” or visiting nurses who travelled by car to do case-finding and follow-up care for patients in their homes. In the 1930s, when Vancouver city health department could not fund the necessary visiting nursing services for TB patients, the Rotary Club took on the funding until the city could once again finance it.

Examinations were free for those who needed care but were unable to pay for medical assessment. About 25 per cent of those examined proved to have TB. To give some idea of the numbers, 6,291 patients came for consultation in 1926. In 1933 the facility closed down; the City established a TB Division of the City Health Department that year, and the province had funded a sanatorium. In 1936 a new building in VGH opened to provide treatments for TB and other chest illnesses.

This became the City’s Public Health Building, later known as The Metropolitan Health Unit #1, which was included in the City Directory for the last time in 1949, the same year that Walter E Frost took this picture. Later that year the site was cleared, and a year later the City’s Parking Corporation were given custody of the land. In 1970 they added the parkade that’s still on the site today. The structure has a value of $207,000, (and seems to be in a constant state of repair in the past few years), but the land is valued at $112 million.

Image source: City of Vancouver Archives CVA 447-59

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Posted 7 March 2022 by ChangingCity in Gone, Victory Square

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