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Hospital Work

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Not all COs doing hospital work served in mental institutions. Some worked in general hospitals, especially at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg .  


Peter Schroeder knew he wanted to do hospital work even before he appeared before Judge Adamson.


“I was the first of the group to appear. My case went very smoothly since I, along with my cousin, had obtained the orderly job on our own before the hearing…. The judge knew of the St. Boniface appointment and granted CO status.”


“I, along with other COs, were gladly received by the hospital administration because we worked hard (12 hr. shifts) and demanded little. The other staff members ridiculed some, especially the young Medical Corp interns. One doctor prescribed that I should scrub the base of the operating table (which I cleaned after an operation) just as clean as my CO soul was. Generally I was treated well and got to like the work very much.” [MHC, 1015-11]


David Schroeder, also an orderly at St. Boniface, has similar memories. In general, the COs were treated well, but there were always a few exceptions.


“I had no knowledge of orderly work and had to be trained. Our work was appreciated and generally well accepted. Occasionally we met with hostility on the part of nurses or doctors where members of their own family had to go to war. The hospital administration did not take advantage of our compulsory service with them.” [MHC, 1015-1]

  Source: The Beacon,  March 1945, p .11

Though the experience of the COs at St. Boniface was good, there was one particularly sad incident. David F. Friesen recalls that moment.


“We did have some difficult days. Willie Unrau, from the Lowe Farm area, worked on maintenance. The hospital had a huge incinerator to dispose of garbage. Somehow a container of ether was part of the garbage and when Willie put it into the incinerator it exploded. Willie died a few days later. I remember how his father came to pick up the body. It was a sad moment.” [ASP, 83]


Four COs at the Manitoba School in Portage la Prairie St. Boniface Hospital, Winnipeg, Manitoba


On the whole, though, the three years that Friesen worked at St. Boniface Hospital were a positive experience.


“It was a tremendous experience for me especially in the hospital work. It changed the direction of my life as I decided to go back to school during that time. It was also during this time that I became an active Christian. The opportunity to meet people who had a different culture was valuable.” [MHC, 1015-56]

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