About this blog

This blog is about the history of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and neighbouring areas, such as Pakenham, Cranbourne and Garfield, and any other historical subjects I feel like writing about. It's my own original research and writing and if you live in the area you may have read some of the stories before in the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp Historical Society newsletter or the Koo-Wee-Rup township newsletter, The Blackfish, or the Garfield township newsletter, The Spectator.
Heather Arnold.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Garfield Hospital

The Bush Nursing Hospital Movement began in 1910 with the establishment of the Victorian Bush Nursing Association (VBNA). At the time the current medical system consisted of big hospitals such as the Royal Melbourne which were run along charitable lines and whose role was to treat poor people, who could not afford to pay a Doctors fee.  There were also private hospitals which only the wealthy could afford. To help offset medical costs Friendly Societies or Lodges were established which people could join for a yearly fee. This gave them access to the Friendly Society doctor and access to medicine dispensed from the Friendly Society Dispensary. There was also a growing move to nurse people in their own homes through what is now the Royal District Nursing Service.  People in the city and the suburbs could have a nurse visit them to help recover from confinements and general illness. This type of service took pressure off the public Hospitals. Lady Dudley, the wife of the Governor General, was aware of these visiting nurses and had also seen first hand the need for skilled nurses in the bush, so from these experiences came the idea of Bush Nursing Hospitals. Lady Dudley promoted and raised money for the idea and thus the Victorian Bush Nursing Association began in 1910.

To obtain a Bush Nursing Hospital, the local community had to raise the money to fund the cost of the nurse’s salary, board, uniform and a ‘means of locomotion’. The salary was set by the Bush Nursing Association at the rate of around £80.00 per annum, the rate of pay for a hospital nurse with five or six years experience. The first Victorian nurse was appointed to Beech Forest in March 1911. Eventually some towns provided cottages for the nurses to provide accommodation for both the nurse and the patient. Koo-Wee-Rup was an early example of this where the original nurse, Nurse Homewood, started work in the bush nursing centre in July 1918; this was later replaced by a Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. Pakenham’s Bush Nursing Hospital opened in 1926.

According to the book History of Shelley Memorial Hospital by the late Denise Nest, the push to get a hospital in Garfield started about 1930, when Dr Kenneth McLeod proposed the idea. The community raised around £340, but due to the Depression the momentum for Hospital slowed. On December 4, 1940 a meeting was held and the Garfield branch of the VBNA was formed with an Executive and 26 Committee members, so there was obviously a lot of enthusiasm for the idea.  The Committee purchased No. 8 and No. 9 Railway Avenue and a hospital plan was approved. The building could accommodate five beds and would cost about £1500. However the hospital was put on hold due to the War.

A new Committee was elected in December 1944 and it was decided that the hospital would be a Branch of the Warragul Hospital instead of a Bush Nursing Hospital. So in 1945 the Garfield and District Hospital Committee was formed and all the assets of the Garfield branch of the Victorian Bush Nursing Association were transferred to this new committee. From 1946 to 1948 land in Jefferson Road was acquired; some was purchased and some was obtained by swapping the Railway Avenue land with some of the Jefferson Road blocks. All in all blocks 16 to 24 were acquired and plans were drawn up in August 1946 for a 15 bed hospital. This lapsed due to the shortage of material and labour after the War. The Committee went through various changes in personnel, other plans were drawn up but Government finance was not available. By 1948, the Hospital Committee had raised over £2,600. Various submissions were made in the 1950s to the Hospital Commission to get the Garfield Hospital established but to no avail.

However, in January 1944, Mr Emile Shelley, the chemist at Bunyip, passed away and he generously left money for projects for the ‘beautification and advancement of Bunyip’. One idea was a Hospital. In the end, the money that had been raised by the community for the Garfield Hospital, plus the £1,330 realised from the sale of the Jefferson Street land was put together with some of the Shelley Trust money and the Shelley Memorial Hospital Society was established in 1960. The Shelley Memorial Hospital at Bunyip was officially opened on March 19, 1966 and closed on May 1, 1991. The building is now part of Hillview Hostel.

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