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  The Sanatorium Age


A tuberculous mother, on strict bed rest, leaves her room at the sanatorium for a Sunday walk with her family. But she does not leave her bed.

The "Sanatorium Age" in Canada began in 1896, when the first institution was being built by the National Sanatorium Association at Muskoka, Ontario. The sanatoria demonstrated the value of rest, fresh air, good nutrition and isolation to prevent the spread of infection. These institutions were essentially large treatment centres that specialized in the diagnosis and recovery of patients with tuberculosis. The sanatorium occupied a unique place in the tuberculosis program in North America and Western Europe, and nowhere was it as well developed as in Canada. At one stage in the program it was thought that enough sanatoriums could be developed in Canada to treat every case of tuberculosis. This actually happened in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta, but in the other provinces it was not until the drug era that there was a sufficient number of treatment beds.

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Sanatorium kids attend school while staying in their beds outside on the balcony.

During the first half of the 20th Century, in-patient treatment was then believed to be the only way to manage TB, and by 1938, Canada had 61 sanatoriums and special tuberculosis units in hospitals with close to 9,000 beds. This, however, was not sufficient to treat all patients suffering from tuberculosis. Building new sanatoriums and adding ever increasing numbers of beds to accommodate everyone needing treatment was the most important endeavor in tuberculosis control at the time.

From 9OOO beds in 1938, the bed complement rose to a peak of 19,000 beds in 1953. Patientsí average length of stay in hospital was prolonged at the time, reaching a peak of just over one year in the mid-1950s. Many patients, though, stayed at the "San" for 3-5 years and some even longer.

The legendary Sousa Orchestra plays outside while patients at the Saskatoon San watch and listen from their beds on the balconies above.