Kiama Hospital

Kiama Hospital Image 1

The first Kiama Cottage Hospital was opened at the top of Barney Street in 1887 to support the booming population of quarry workers in the area. During the 1870s and 1880s, Kiama was the leading source in the colony for blue metal, which was being used to construct buildings, roads and railways. Kiama became home to many men working in this dangerous industry, many of whom had no family here to support them when they became sick or were injured, therefore the need for a hospital became apparent.

When the hospital opened, the staff consisted of the matron, Miss Isabella Barron, and a wardsman, John Barron. (John and Isabella were siblings.) In the early months, it appears that the matron and the wardsman were the only people employed to run the hospital, which included cooking, cleaning, general maintenance and gardening. The matron lived at the hospital, and was available 24 hours a day, week in week out. It was never contemplated that she would have time off during the week or even holidays. She worked for the first six and a half years without any time off. Matron had her first holiday in 1894 for a month when her health was affected by her continuous work life. John worked at the hospital for two years, while Isabella remained there for 23 years.

The first death at the hospital was on 6 June 1887 - the patient had been admitted with typhoid fever the day before the hospital officially opened. Many of the patients admitted in the early years were either suffering from typhoid fever or injuries from work-related accidents, especially from the quarries (78.4% of the patients were men). Maternity cases were not admitted to hospital.

It was not unusual in the 1870/80s for operations to be performed on kitchen tables in homes. In the early years of the hospital, operations were often performed on the staff dining table. It wasn't until 1910 that a government grant and a large donation from George Lawrence Fuller enabled the construction of a purpose-built operating theatre room, which was completed in 1911.

Kiama Hospital was moved to Bonaira Street in 1930 and many more staff were employed to work there. A new nurse's home was opened in March 1950. The Maternity Unit, 'Birrahlee' (an Aboriginal word for baby), was opened in November 1951. The first baby born there was Mick Cronin.

Kiama Cottage Hospital on the corner of Barney and Irvine St.

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Kiama Cottage Hospital (1887-1930)

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Kiama Hospital Operating Theatre

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Not long after the new hospital was opened in 1930.

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Kiama Hospital, Bonaira St c.1960s

hospital 1960

Garden decoration at the official opening of 'Birrahlee' maternity ward, c.1951

Birrahlee garden