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Hospital Work

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William J. Kehler also served at the hospital in Portage la Prairie. His first impression was similar to Henry Funk's.


“My first impression of the work was that of a strange and somewhat repulsive atmosphere and due to the shortage of staff, they had neither the staff nor the time to properly train new staff. My training consisted of one eight hour shift on the ward together with one of the experienced staff, and the next shift I was on my own. That was getting to know the ropes the hard way but you learned fast. Apparently it had not been easy for some of the regular staff to start working there either. As one of them said, when he first applied for a job he had walked over to the institution and stood outside for quite some time trying to make up his mind whether to go in or turn around and walk back. But he needed a job badly so he got up enough courage and went in. He was still working there.”


One of the hardest parts of the job was restraining violent patients.


“There were times when it could not be helped, you had to get tough with a patient and leave no doubt in his mind who was the boss. Dr. Bristow would not stand for a patient being manhandled unnecessarily. But when it was a case of self defense or restoring order as mentioned previously, he understood that a certain amount of force was necessary.”


“If necessary a patient would be restrained for short periods of time in a straightjacket. A jacket that was laced in the back, their arms in closed sleeves were crossed and also tied together in the back so that they could not use their arms. This was only done on doctor's order.”


Like all other COs, alternative service workers in hospitals contributed part of their earnings to the Red Cross.


“We were paid regular civil service wages but after deductions for room and board and the compulsory Red Cross donation, our take home pay was very small and yet some of us managed to buy Victory Loan Bonds [Citizens could loan money to the government so that the government could wage war or alleviate suffering more effectively].”


COs in their hospital uniforms


As for personal relationships, Kehler remembers less trouble than Funk.


“I must say that we got along very well with our superiors and staff. Although they probably could never agree with our stand as COs they showed no animosity and we were treated exactly the same as the other staff. When I was leaving after my discharge, I had a brief farewell with chief John Inglis in his office. He told me, among other things, that we had done a good job. They were very well pleased with the services we had rendered.” [ASM, 114-121]

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