One of the first medical doctors in the Kiama area was Dr Menzies, who arrived in Australia in 1839, and came to Kiama, after a 6 day journey on horseback with his wife, from Sydney. Mrs Menzies kept a diary of her journey to Australia and her early life in Kiama and describes the Kiama headlands as thick with vines, creepers and forest. As the only doctor and the first coroner in the area, he had to travel great distances on horseback to see to his duties, along rough bush tracks. Travelling such distance to see patients created many dangers for the doctor as well. In June 1853, Dr Parrot was travelling by horseback to attend to an injured man. The doctor’s horse fell on the rough track and rolled on top of Dr Parrot, killing him. The injured man, Mr Willet, survived. As Dr Parrot was the only doctor at the time, there was no one to see to his injuries.
People had to wait many hours before the local doctor arrived, often with horrific injuries or illness. In June 1869, Mr Lee of Gerringong died after many days of severe pain and shock after being kicked by his horse in the abdomen. The only doctor was in Kiama and Dr Tarrent had to travel the 7 miles on horseback to see to him. His injuries were so bad that Dr Tarrent sent for Dr Marshall of Wollongong for further medical advice. Gerringong didn’t get a doctor until Dr Kruger set up practice in 1895.
The only hospital in the Illawarra was in Wollongong for many years, and a public meeting in Kiama in 1886 was finally called to discuss the need for a hospital in Kiama. The quarries in the area and the development of the railways mean there were many more serious injuries than could be handled by one local doctor. A Gerringong man had to be transported first to Kiama, and then by steamer to the Wollongong hospital in 1883, due to the injuries he sustained whilst digging a well.
Hospital plans were approved by the Government for construction on a 2.5 acre site in Barney Street that had been made available by Joseph Pike for £250. The Foundation Stone for the cottage hospital was laid on September 22 1886 and the day was declared a half day holiday for the community. The stone was laid as part of a Masonic ceremony as Dr Tarrant who officially laid the foundation stone was also the Grand Master of the Freemasons at the time. The cottage hospital was officially opened in May 21 1887 after 1000 pounds were raised by the community and matched by the Government.
Typhoid was sweeping the town at the time, highlighting the need for proper sewerage and water supply to prevent such outbreaks in the future. Deaths in the area were mostly by drowning, fire and accidents. The diseases of the time were diphtheria, consumption, typhoid, scarlet fever and dysentery. Brooklyn Private Hospital was established on Manning St in 1916 by a local nurse, known as Nurse Crisp, who partnered with Nurse Jennings to provide care to the sick and needy. The search for a new hospital site began in 1922 to expand hospital services. The Committee inspected the land on Bonaira St, which was actually part of the Jamberoo Municipality at the time. The Government agreed to pay half the cost of building the new hospital and 1/3 of the cost of purchasing the land. In 1929, this land was transferred to the Kiama Borough for the hospital and 4 foundation stones were laid by the Mayors of Jamberoo, Kiama, Gerringong and Shellharbour. Kiama’s first motorised ambulance was presented to the Kiama community on January 15 1927, enabling a much speedier approach to medical care in our community.