Two retired nurses talk about the hospital world in Puy-en-Velay

Deux infirmières retraitées racontent le monde hospitalier au Puy-en-Velay

From retired nurses, Maryse Fraisse and Marie-Thé Sentenat became writers on Wednesday. They just published a book. A book written “out of a duty of memory and in homage to the nursing profession”.
It is called A hospital history in Le Puy-en-Velay, from medieval hospitality to 20th century care. “This story is not that of hospitals, specifies Marie-Thé Sentenat. It’s ours “. And by extension, that of all the people who, in their image, have dedicated decades of their lives to caring for the inhabitants of Velay within the establishments of the prefecture city, from the Hôtel-Dieu to the Émile- Roux, via the Cathedral General Hospital and the Bon Secours clinic.
Behind the front cover nicely illustrated by Nadine Pleynet: 380 pages accompanied by vintage postcards, contemporary photos, and explanatory diagrams to immerse yourself in the hospital environment. “A world apart” subject, over the centuries, to multiple changes.
Between necessary historical reminders (read below), description of techniques – with an accessible lexical field – and presentations of these “great figures” who left their mark on the city – such as Achille Proy, the architect of the Émile hospital center – Roux, to name but one – the work of passionate women revolves – and this is what makes “the difference”, according to Jean-Marie Bolliet, director of Émile-Roux – around a series of testimonials. “They are the foundation of our work,” says Maryse Fraisse. They bring our writings to life.”
These stories, confidences, anecdotes and stories of all kinds are those of “a few patients”, but above all come, for the most part, from these “professionals” who worked in ponot hospitals, from 1940 and until the 2000s. “Caregivers or personnel from the works or gardening departments. Everyone has brought their stone to the building”, underline the two writers.
Testimonials, their book contains “about forty” on the wet finger. No doubt more. Putting them in writing to preserve them from oblivion was the ambition of Maryse Fraisse and Marie-Thé Sentenat. The retired nurses were driven by “the desire to share them, to save them”. Collecting them required “a lot of time” and energy. Just like peeling the departmental archives and those of the Émile-Roux hospital center.

“We were sometimes overwhelmed, but we never wanted to stop”

“We were sometimes overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, they agree, but we never wanted to stop”. Their work is the result of a long and meticulous “work of research”, of several years “of reflection, maturation, restructuring”. “At first, to be honest, we didn’t know where we were going,” admits Marie-Thé Sentenat. Seven years passed between the sketch of the project and the publication of the book. Proof of the unlimited involvement of retired nurses, of their “passion for their profession” and their desire to “make themselves useful”, as they have always done during their professional life.

From the Hôtel-Dieu to the Émile-Roux hospital, a long story…

In their book Une histoire hospitalière au Puy-en-Velay, Maryse Fraisse and Marie-Thé Sentenat return to the origins of the Émile-Roux hospital center, a “precursor” in many respects, and the Bon Secours clinic, but dwell also on these ponot establishments whose doors are today closed to the sick.
The Hôtel-Dieu is one of them. Before welcoming tourists attracted by the lights, the building, next to the cathedral, received pilgrims in search of comfort. “Originally, it was a place of welcome for the care of souls, then it evolved towards the care of the body according to medical discoveries”, relates Marie-Thé Sentenat.
In 1687, at the instigation of Louis XIV, the Ponots witnessed the creation of a new establishment, also next to the cathedral. Its name: General Hospital. “It was a place of confinement and repression dedicated to beggars who disturbed the tranquility of the city”, continues the writer. Overwhelmed “by the world”, the leaders called, from 1733, on the nuns of the Cross of Saint-Pal-en-Chalencon.“Originally, it was a place of welcome for the care of souls”. Archival photo Vincent Jolfre

During the Revolution, the two structures were united under the name of the Hospices du Puy, but kept “their respective practices”. This union was accompanied by “tensions” between the two structures and resulted, in 1926, after a hundred years of presence, in the dismissal of the Trinitarian sisters who were in charge of the management of the Hôtel-Dieu. They are the ones who, in a handful of years, gave birth to the Bon Secours clinic (in 1930). It is also between these walls that the first departmental school of nurses was created in 1945.
As for the Émile-Roux hospital centre, its construction began in 1933, according to the plans of the architect Achille Proy, before being “hindered by finances”.

Ophelie Cremillieux


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