EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

It is my attempt at giving the younger generation who work in EMS today, a snapshot into the history of ambulance service.

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Photo from Western Develpment Museum Column

Improvised Ambulance, patient brought 60 miles to Yorkton Hospital.

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Column 29 February/March 2011

60 Miles to Yorkton Hospital

There were few hospitals in Saskatchewan in the early part of the twentieth century and of them most were located in the cities. In rural Saskatchewan, where a majority of the people lived, if someone was sick or injured a messenger would be sent to the closest town to summon the country doctor. The doctor would then travel to the rural location, diagnose the illness to the best of his ability, and prescribe remedies or perhaps dispense potions from a chemical kit in his medical bag. Simple bed rest was usually recommended and this would be arranged for in the farm home where family and neighbors could nurse the patient and pray for a recovery.

Occasionally a rural patient would need to be transported to a hospital in the closest city. If transportation by train was not possible then the patient would be transported by horse and wagon or sleigh. The accompanying photo taken in 1905 (the year Saskatchewan became a province) was taken after such an event. Depending on snow depth and weather conditions, it likely would have taken two days or more for the party to travel the 60 miles to Yorkton. The sleigh would have been stocked with feed for the horses as well as food for the driver, patient, and those accompanying the patient. Smoke rising from the stove pipe at the back of the improvised ambulance, indicates a stove was set up to keep the patient warm. They likely would have travelled with one team of horses for about ten miles, stopped for a break to feed them some oats or hay, then resumed travel for another ten miles before exchanging the horses for a fresh team. For night they would have stopped at a town or a farm along the way.

Pioneer settlers had none of the comforts and conveniences we have today - they were a tough lot. The photo of the improvised ambulance gives new meaning to the term "long distance patient transfer" doesn't it?

Copyright 2011 Peter Adsten