Community determination made CHEO a reality!
CHEO opened its doors officially on May 17, 1974 with patients first visiting the outpatient clinics. The first patient to be hospitalized was on July 22 of that year.
CHEO was created out of sheer will and determination to provide the best health care for children and youth. During the late 1960’s and early 70’s, local physicians, elected officials, parents and the community joined forces to establish a special and distinct hospital to serve the children and youth of eastern Ontario and western Quebec. The Citizens’ Committee on Children is to be credited for stimulating discussion and creating interest in the creation of a hospital for children.
“Letters to the Editor” appeared in local newspapers as early as 1963 advocating for the establishment of a hospital for children in the region. In May 1965, Mayor Don Reid was presented with $2,500 indicating that 2,500 people supported a children’s hospital. The Mayor created the Mayor’s Committee for a Children’s Hospital to demonstrate his support for the initiative. In March 1966, the Mayor’s Committee for a Children’s Hospital and the Support the Children’s Hospital Committee submitted a joint brief to the Ontario Government, advocating for the establishment of a separate and unique hospital for children and youth.
In April 1966, the Ontario Government approved in principle the construction of a hospital. The cost was estimated at $10 million dollars. In May 1966, the Mayor’s Committee earmarked a site for the hospital, suggesting the proximity to the new University of Ottawa Medical School as a favourable site.
In 1967, the Mayor’s Committee for a Children’s Hospital became the interim Board of Trustees of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The provincial support became conditional on reaching a local fundraising target of $4 million dollars – a formidable task for the times! The provincial government committed $16 million dollars towards the construction of a new facility – once the local portion was confirmed.
In the summer of 1968, a public campaign to raise $4 million dollars for CHEO was officially launched. Fundraising parties, teas, fashion shows and several community leaders rallied behind the fundraising drive. The Women’s Auxiliary team was instrumental, rising to the challenge and organizing several events in support of the campaign. Preliminary designs for the hospital were unveiled in August 1968, where architects described their concept as a building “designed to respond not only to the physical but to the mental and emotional needs of children”.
By the spring of 1969, the establishment of a children’s hospital in Ottawa had received the official endorsement of the Ontario Government, the Ontario Hospital Services Commission, Ottawa City Council, the city councils of neighbouring communities and counties, the University of Ottawa, the governing bodies of local hospitals, and many private agencies involved in child care.
On May 17, 1974, CHEO opened its doors. Inspired by unwavering determination and commitment over the course of almost ten years, CHEO was poised to become a leader in pediatric care.