The History of Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary

In the early 1900’s the Columbia Coast Mission Boats serviced the communities and logging camps along the isolated areas of the Sunshine Coast. They supplied everything from groceries and religious services to basic medical  care. As time went by it became evident that a hospital was needed. So with the help of St. Mary’s Anglican Church of Kerrisdale, money and other support was provided and the community of Pender Harbour rallied behind the project. The first St. Mary’s Hospital opened on August 16, 1930. The Columbia Coast Mission carried the financial burden until 1953 when management was passed to a local hospital committee. 

By 1959, it was clear that an expanded hospital was needed. On land donated by the Sechelt Indian Band in Sechelt, a new hospital opened in 1964. A second floor was added in 1972.  In 1986 Totem Lodge was built. In 2016 the North Tower was opened which included patient care areas, Emergency, Imaging and other services.  More renovation work included re-purposing the vacated areas of the hospital.

In 2015, in the spirit of reconciliation, the hospital name was changed to Sechelt (shishalh) Hospital. 

The first auxiliary was formed in Pender Harbour in 1937, followed by Halfmoon Bay in 1955, Gibsons in 1960, Sechelt in 1961, Roberts Creek in 1964 (Roberts Creek disbanded in 2020 and those members joined other branches) and Port Mellon (now Hopkins) also in 1964.

In 1965 the six auxiliaries convened a Co-Ordinating council with the objective of working together in the interests of the newly build hospital in Sechelt. It functioned as a holding committee for monies raised by the separate auxiliaries, and was meant to support the hospital by purchasing equipment and for the comfort and well being of the patients. 

In 1983, the separate  auxiliaries amalgamated becoming one auxiliary with six branches. In 1993, the auxiliary formed a society. A board of Directors elected from the branches directs the business of the auxiliary. 

In 2015 we changed our name to Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary to better reflect our commitment to health care throughout the whole coast. 

There are presently 4 branches who hold regular meetings, arrange their own fund-raising activities, run the hospital gift shop, the loan cupboard and the thrift shop as well as providing care and equipment for Totem Lodge and Shorncliffe. A Granting Committee provides funds for health care related organizations on the Sunshine Coast.

The Thrift Store came about when a property on Cowrie Street in Sechelt was donated to the Hospital Society.  In January 1967 a Thrift Store, managed by a committee consisting of two members from each of the 6 auxiliaries, was opened in a cottage on the property. The auxiliary members spent the week gathering items to sell on Saturday, the only day it was open.  In 1981 the St. Mary’s Hospital Society built a new store at it’s current location on Cowrie Street. In the mid 90’s, when Health Authorities were created, one of the final acts of the Hospital Society was to form a Hospital Foundation and transfer hospital assets to the Foundation, this included the Thrift Store building.  Although the Foundation is their landlord the Auxiliary is a separate entity and works hard to provide money for health care on the Sunshine Coast. 

The Gift Shop came from similar humble beginnings in 1970 with one member buying items for hospital patients. In 1972 a space was provided on the main floor of the hospital and inventory  increased to include toiletries and other items of comfort and gradually clothing and accessories. There were many hand knit baby items and other crafts provided by volunteers.  In August 1973 the Gift Shop Committee was formed to govern it’s management, this committee was comprised of one representative from each of the six auxiliaries. In 2016 when the North Tower was being built a new commercial space was included in the lobby. The Gift Store has room for display and fashionable inventory.  Although the hospital staff are the shops best customers, the volunteers have never lost sight of their primary goal – to provide patients with items they need to make their stay in hospital as comfortable as possible.

In the late 1960’s the Sunshine Coast nurses created a hospital loan cupboard, a small scale, free of charge medical equipment lending service.  It eventually grew to the point where the nurses were unable to spare the increasing number of volunteers hours required to operate the service. The Auxiliary took on this valuable community service in 1985 and over the decades it has improved and expanded the service.  Over 30 fully trained volunteers manage 700+ pieces of equipment including wheelchairs, walkers, toilet seat raisers, bath equipment and other helpful items for a variety of needs.  The operation of the Loan Cupboard is overseen by a group of volunteers who come from all the branches. The Auxiliary Loan Cupboard is unique among auxiliaries in providing this service.

Today the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary Society is a significant contributor to the quality of health care on the Sunshine Coast.  There is much to be proud of as we acknowledge our history and continue to celebrate our ongoing success.