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Colonel Mewburn

By Pauline Hunter

One of the pioneers in surgery in the West, Dr. Frank Hamilton Mewburn started his practice as company doctor for the Galt Coal Mine in Lethbridge in 1881. Here he did remarkable work under very primitive conditions. He performed his first appendectomy on a pool table, with the barber giving the chloroform. Though the appendix was ruptured, the patient lived. It is told that many of Dr. Mewburn's strange bone instruments, with which he achieved such success, were borrowed from the local carpenter and blacksmith.

The rebellion of 1885 took Dr. Mewburn to Winnipeg as Chief of the military hospital there. Even in these early days he took frequent refresher courses in the East and in the States. As a result, he was one of the first to practise aseptic surgery in the West.

Moving to Calgary early in this century, he set up a practice which he gave up to enlist in 1914. He was in charge of a hospital overseas during the years of the First World War.

Following his return from overseas, the doctor was chosen as Professor of Surgery in the University of Alberta. He spent the last decade of his life combining this position with his large surgical practice in the University Hospital.

Dr. Mewburn made a name for himself as a brilliant surgeon. The impatience which was often credited to him by students was really a deep intolerance of careless work and bad surgical methods, that was part of his creed. The doctor was highly esteemed by his associates, and to his death was always affectionately known as 'The Col.'

The Colonel Mewburn Memorial Hospital

A fitting memorial to the late Colonel Mewburn, is the new Mewburn Memorial Pavilion which was officially opened February 22. The new hospital is built along clear-cut lines of simple beauty. The building is laid on the plan of a giant 'H' with the two long parts of the letter running parallel to 112th Street. The beauty of this plan lies in the fact that a more compact building is obtained with an abundance of light for every room. The new Pavilion is connected with the University Hospital by a long underground corridor which is thermostatically heated and air-conditioned. Opening off this corridor, and with an additional direct entrance, is the Admitting Ward. Here the patients exchange their uniforms for hospital garb before being taken to the wards. The remainder of the ground floor makes up the Physical Medicine Department. Uncompleted as yet, this promises to be one of the finest departments of its kind in the West. One part of the department will be devoted to Electro and Hydro Therapy, while the other and larger part is to be used for Occupational Therapy. In this latter department, machines will be provided to develop any muscle of the injured soldier's body - for example, a man whose abdominal muscles are flaccid following a shrapnel wound, will be put to work at a loom, which will gradually restore the use of the affected muscles, while at the same time giving him a healthy outlet in useful activity.

On the first floor is a Dental Laboratory with three dentist's chairs and a comfortable waiting room. Across the hall from this is a Canteen which is to be run by the Institute for the Blind. Next to this is the library, which is to be furnished with books and run by the Lady Aberdeen League. At the end of the corridor is a Billiard Room. The other end of the front of the hospital is made into four small airy wards (four to six beds) with a large, comfortable waiting room for friends and relatives. These wards are for Orthopedic patients.

The half of the first floor facing the back is to consist of doctors' offices, a Clinical Laboratory, and a room for the making and fitting of artificial limbs.

The main feature of this floor, however, is the theatre which occupies the central part of it. It seats 250, has a good-sized stage, complete with footlights and two well-equipped dressing rooms. A good screen and a modern Projection Room mean that the men should have some good movies. The seats are movable so that the theatre may be used for dances as well. (Each bed in the hospital is being fitted with headphones with three-way switches connected with a central radio set.)

The second floor is mainly Surgical, with some Orthopedic cases. Part of the floor consists in small wards (one and two beds) for post-operative and Neurosurgical cases. The rest of the floor is divided into large bright wards for the convalescent patients. One unique feature of the hospital is the glass partitioning of the large wards, with the nurses' stations placed in front, so that the nurse can watch, perhaps, thirty patients without getting to her feet. With the sicker patients placed closest to the desk, this innovation should prove invaluable at night when the staff is small.

At each corner of the 'H' is a lounge. On the second floor these are furnished by: Canadian Legion, Stagettes, Catholic Women's League, and Ladies' Auxiliary to the junior Chamber of Commerce. These organizations vie with one another in providing rooms that are bright, comfortable, and home-like.

The third floor is Medical with a few Orthopedic cases. It consists entirely of large, glass-partitioned wards. The four lounges on this floor were furnished by: Twentieth Century Club, Kinsmen, LO.D.E., and Jewish Council of Women.

Each floor has its Ward Kitchen, shining with chrome and complete with Frigidaires and electric stoves. The food is brought from the main hospital in electrically heated, enclosed 'wagons.'

Each floor has also an Examining Room, completely private for the convenience of the doctors and the comfort of the patients.

The hospital has a capacity of 250 beds, with 150 of them already filled. Edmonton has every reason to be proud of the facilities that await her returning disabled sons. Everything is being provided to make possible their rapid recovery, both physical and mental.

Published April 1945.

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