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Book review: How paediatricians sold Joey Smallwood on a children’s hospital for St. John’s

Posted on Nov 7 2017 by the Canadian Paediatric Society | Permalink

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The Janeway: 50 Years of Caring for Children
by Dr. Rick Cooper
Boulder Publications $21.95 258 pages

By Dr. J.T.H. Connor, Memorial University, St. John’s, Nfld.

© Eastern Health Storyline
June 15, 2016

In 1966, Memorial University’s medical school was a year away from formal establishment, plans were afoot to build the Health Sciences Centre (HSC) in St. John’s , and a federal plan to fund hospital and diagnostic services in all provinces—national medicare—was underway. It’s also the year that the “old Janeway” opened its doors. The backstory to the creation and opening of the Dr. Charles A. Janeway Child Health Centre is one not fully told until now.

In his 1991 book, the late Donald Kelland was coy about events surrounding the hospital’s founding. Although avoiding “anecdotal comment and reference to personalities,” Kelland stated that many “well-meaning” people opposed repurposing the former hospital at the time, but only hinted as to why.

Dr. Rick Cooper’s account tells us much more. Many initially opposed a free-standing children’s treatment facility, incuding the Newfoundland Medical Association, most St. John’s doctors, the leader of the official government opposition (Noel Murphy, also a doctor), the minister of health (James McGrath, another doctor), and even Premier Joey Smallwood. An external consulting group led by Arthur MacFarlane, a former dean at the University of Toronto’s medical school, also questioned the merits of such an institution.

Support for the idea was limited to a much smaller group of doctors, but they were driven and passionate. As Dr. Cooper relates, Dr. Clifton Joy (father of actor Robert Joy), along with pediatrician-colleague John Collins, spearheaded the campaign to create a children’s health centre. They recognized that for the project to advance the premier had to be convinced to get on board. Their plan: running for Smallwood’s Liberals. Dr. Joy was elected MHA for Harbour Main, and Dr. Collins became president of the Canadian Paediatric Society. Together they, along with other prominent pediatricians, got Premier Smallwood’s ear, and he eventually supported the idea of a pediatric health centre. Soon after, those who were originally opposed succumbed. The advice and endorsement of Dr. Charles Janeway, a notable Boston-based pediatrician who was also a mentor to Dr. Joy, further propelled the project.

For the next three decades, the Janeway performed as a province-wide medical referral centre,  but its limitations showed as pediatric practices and technology became more sophisticated. In 2001, the “new” Janeway was built adjacent to the HSC and medical school.

Dr. Cooper’s detailed account of the last 15 years of the Janeway is a fitting tribute to all staff involved in the care of women and children. The book includes many vignettes of patients who displayed bravery, tenacity, resilience, and hope – sometimes against all odds.  

Dr. Cooper—a former Canadian Paediatric Society board member—has been a pediatrician for 43 of the 50 years of the Janeway’s existence. His experience of both the “old” and “new” facilities, along with his skill as an institutional biographer, shine through this book.

J.T.H. Connor is the John Clinch Professor of Medical Humanities and History of Medicine at Memorial University.


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Last updated: Nov 9 2017