Fort San: Life and Breath
The Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium was Saskatchewan’s first healthcare centre built to combat the contagious disease Tuberculosis.
A Spot So Endearing
Poem by Alice Bauer, Nurse-in-Training
Rose Learmonth’s Dad
“I wish Dad were here to tell you of his experiences with the T.B. patients and the Summer School of Arts students. His memory was so good.”
Robert Ferguson farms near Fort Qu’Appelle and is the son of Dr R.G. Ferguson the famous Medical Superintendent at Fort San
Officially opened in 1917, The Fort Qu’Appelle Sanatorium, consisted of 230 sprawling acres of land. Fort San, as it was known, was designed to be almost completely self sufficient, with its own powerhouse, stables, piggery, poultry ranch, and a five acre garden. Through the persistence and diligence of the Anti-Tuberculosis League and Dr. G. Ferguson, patients from all across Saskatchewan were brought to Fort San via train and horse drawn buggy, entering into a community dedicated to the eradication of TB.
At its peak, Fort San could accommodate 358 patients and a vibrant community emerged through activities such as the drama club, the jazz band, and the internal radio program while the facility provided an environment of rest, good food, fresh air, and relaxation.
In 1918, World War I veterans created an extensive library at Fort San; books on the subject of tuberculosis were purchased so patients could educate themselves on the disease during the long hours of recuperation. This literary enlightenment led to the creation of The Sanatorium Journal composed of poems and musings that eventually turned into The Valley Echo, a publication that consisted of articles on tuberculosis and the sanatorium, as well as humorous essays and advertisements.
Throughout five decades, thousands of patients spent long months—and sometimes years—at Fort San. For some, it was a respite from poverty and labour; for others, it was a place of suffering and loss.
Through massive screening and prevention programs, as well as through new drug therapy, the number of tuberculosis patients declined significantly by the 1960s. In 1972, Fort San was no longer needed and the tuberculosis facility was closed.
Fort San remains a testament to innovative healthcare and the enormous courage and support shown by the people of Saskatchewan as they helped to extinguish the twentieth century plague.
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