Making Medicare:  The History of Health Care in Canada, 1914-2007 Back to Timeline Back to Timeline
Costs & Benefits: 1914-1929 Costs & Benefits: 1914-1929 Costs & Benefits: 1930-1939

Canadian Hospitals

Until the 1880s, Canadian hospitals were institutions that cared for the sick poor, soldiers, sailors and recent immigrants who lacked family homes. By the 1890s, however, public general hospitals had begun to serve the middle and upper classes, leading to two-tiered care and increasing expenses for better accommodation and new technology. By 1929, Canada had approximately 954 hospitals, 481 of which were public general hospitals, 42 were mental hospitals, 31 were tuberculosis sanatoria, 33 were hospitals for incurables and 269 were private hospitals. Red Cross hospitals, convalescent homes and other hospitals accounted for the remainder.

Photo: Hospital room, Courtesy of the Kingston General Hospital Archive, Kingston Ontario.

A private room at the Kingston General Hospital, 1920s. Patients who could afford private care in a hospital stayed in a room that offered the comforts of home and had specialized furniture: a hospital bed and table.
Courtesy of the Kingston General Hospital Archive, Kingston, Ontario, B124-4. Used with permission.

The public general hospitals contained more than 32,000 beds, while private hospitals had only 2,500. But, through the 1920s, as operating costs rose, paying patients, their doctors and hospital administrators began to question the lack of public spending on such an important social institution.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010