“Complete to the Last Man”: The hospital ship Strathcona III and the mass x-ray survey for tuberculosis in Labrador, 1970.
John R.H. Matchim, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Brunswick’s Department of History (CAN) will discuss the International Grenfell Association (IGA), a semi-autonomous health care provider that operated in northern Newfoundland and Labrador until 1981, and its use of mass x-ray surveys to reduce the incidence of tuberculosis among the Indigenous communities of northern Labrador.
Rather than addressing the social causes of tuberculosis – forced population relocation, poorly constructed housing, health care inequities – the IGA adopted a technological response, building a new hospital ship, the Strathcona III, that could follow Innu and Inuit communities as they moved to summer fishing and hunting stations. Consequently, the mass surveys undertaken by the Strathcona III prioritized the highest possible x-ray ‘score’ – “complete to the last man” – over individual and community well being. The use of ships and buses to conduct x-ray surveys in rural-remote regions was also tried in Sweden, Greenland and Alaska, as well as the Canadian Arctic. This talk will situate the IGA’s surveys in a circumpolar context.