These things happen. And when they do, who meets the emergency? Who takes care of the mother in childbirth, when not even a midwife is available? And who takes care of the accident victim who will die within the next hour or two unless he can get expert care?
The answer is, the Red Cross Outpst--Saskatchewan's own invention, since duplicated in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick, Australia, Poland and Germany. There are now forty-four in Canada, fourteen of them in Saskatchewan. You find them in such places as Cut Knife, Lucky Lake, Wood Mountain, Nipawin, Rabbit Lake and Carragana. In each instance the local community furnishes the building and pays part of the annual deficient, each year taking over more of the burden if possible. The Red Cross furnishes a well-trained nurse, the equipment, supervision and the rest of the deficit. Patients are charged $3 a day and pay as much of the bill as they can.
The Outpost hospital may be a neat little cottage, built according to plans furnished by the Red Cross, or it may be nothing more than a log cabin or the bare little shack which once served as a makeshift community hall. In one instance it was a railroad caboose, which followed miners in a gold rush.
The Outposts average seven beds but often have eight to ten patients. They are primarily for maternity and emergency cases. Each little hospital is in charge of a Red Cross nurse who is midwife, first-aid expert, community authority on how to bring up babies, public health worker and sympathetic friend in time of trouble. Stationed all the way from thirty to one hundred sixty-five miles from the nearest doctor, as in most of the Outposts, she must be able to deal with any emergency.
"Today," one of them recently wrote a friend, "we had a christening, a death, an operation, admitted three new patients, discharged two old ones, treated six in all and turned one away from lack of room."
Comforting a mother whose baby lies dead in the next room, rejoicing with another over the arrival of a fine new son, convincing a farmer with acute heart trouble that he simply must not pitch hay today, telling an expectant mother what she should eat and bandaging a boy's leg which had been cut in a mowing machine--all these are everyday tasks for the Red Cross nurse.
No comfortable ambulances with their patients roll up to the hospital door here. The "ambulance" is apt to be a dog sled, a canoe or a farm wagon. In one instance an expectant mother came to the Outpost on a railroad "speeder" car, which, incidentally, proved none too speedy. The first baby born at one of the Saskatchewan Outposts rode home behind a yoke of Herefords and another had his first ride behind a dog team.