Backward Glance: Hospitals of the Sunshine Coast
  • Wednesday 07 October 2015
Maroochy District Hospital, Nambour, 1942

Following on from our story on the important role midwives played in the community, today’s story shines the spotlight on the early hospitals of the Sunshine Coast.

Early settlers relied upon the assistance of nurses amongst their communities to dispense first aid and care for the sick or injured.

Each district had women who were skilled and practiced midwives, attributed with delivering a large number of infants before hospitals were built in the region. Injured or sick people who required hospital attention were transported by rail to either Gympie or Brisbane.

As the North Coast region grew, the medical needs of various communities increased. By 1906, concerned with inadequate health needs of their communities, the citizens of Maroochy Shire embarked on a major fundraising effort for a hospital in the region.

Towns such as Eumundi, Kenilworth, Maleny, Landsborough and Bli Bli contributed funds towards the hospital cause. Hospitals such as Beerburrum and Maleny were built in the early 1920s.

Dr Arthur E. Malaher was the first medical practitioner in Nambour, followed by Dr AG Penny.

Dr Malaher initially conducted consultations in a room at the Royal Hotel in Currie Street. In 1904, he moved to his residence and surgery, 'Viti Levu', located in Petrie Creek Road (renamed Howard Street), where he established a hospital. In 1910, the hospital was relocated to Arundel Avenue and renamed 'Bungalow'.

Dr Malaher held the position of Medical Officer for the Maroochy Shire Council and it was in that capacity he selected the location for the Nambour Hospital buildings in the early 1920s. He left Nambour in the early 1930s for Mt Tamborine and died in 1948.

Following a wave of diphtheria outbreaks from 1919 onwards, the first of a series of public meetings was held in 1922 regarding the health needs of the North Coast region and the building of a public hospital in Nambour. Years passed before the first patients were admitted to what is now known as Nambour General Hospital, with the official opening taking place February 15, 1930. In 1927, the hospital opened an isolation ward for children prior to the official opening due to an increase in diphtheria cases.

Opened in February 1922, the Beerburrum Hospital was built to serve the needs of the Soldier Settlers and their families. The failure of the Soldier Settlements Scheme meant the population in the area rapidly declined and the hospital was closed in 1932.

Sections were sent by road to become additions to the Maleny Soldiers Memorial Hospital. The Maleny Soldiers Memorial Hospital was opened initially as a private hospital on August 1, 1920 with Dr Anderson as the Medical Officer and Matron Gorringe as his aide.

The hospital building was erected by Mr Paul Tesch of Witta, on a hillside in Bean Street which overlooked the township of Maleny. Construction was funded through public donations as a memorial to those who served and fought in World War 1 and all returned servicemen and women were treated free. The hospital was later officially opened on October 21, 1920 by Mr H F Walker MLA.

The hospital was extended several times over the years and served the community for 67 years until the current hospital was built opposite and opened by Mike Ahern, MLA on October 17, 1987.

Sections of the old hospital were relocated or demolished in early 1989 and a new Maleny Ambulance Station opened on the site August 1994.

Dr Anthony ‘Tony’ Parer was Superintendent of the Maleny Soldiers Memorial Hospital from 1931 to 1952. Dr Parer was well known as a compassionate man, who regularly rode many miles on horseback through atrocious weather to attend a patient.

He took an active and keen interest in all public affairs and was a member of 11 community organisations in the district on his retirement.

Dr Tony Parer Park was built by Caloundra City Council on the site of the original Maleny Soldiers Memorial Hospital and was officially opened August 20, 2005 in honour of this outstanding rural doctor.

'Sunny Brae’ was built in 1910 as a private residence for the Luke family of Eumundi. In 1924, the home was converted to a private hospital and served the area for many years.

The hospital was closed in 1958 and the house once more converted to a private residence.

Dr Arthur James Kennedy and Matron Mary O'Neill commenced their duties at Nambour Maroochy District Hospital on December 16, 1929 and were members of the first Nambour Hospitals Board.

Dr Kennedy came from South Australia, initially as the appointed Medical Officer, though in July 1936 he became the fulltime medical superintendent.

Selangor Private Hospital in Nambour was founded July 22, 1947 by World War II veteran nursing sisters, Sister Christine Oxley and Sister Dorothy Ralston.

Sister Oxley had been a prisoner of war in Malaya and was imprisoned in the Selangor war camp, which is where the hospital derived its name.

The hospital construction was funded by a war service loan and personal savings.

Originally located in Currie Street in a converted residence, near the Church of England Hall, Selangor relocated to a new 34-bed hospital in Netherton Street, Nambour, and was officially opened by Queensland Premier Frank Nicklin in 1960. Matron Margaret Woodside was the first matron.

Buderim Private Hospital, now known as Sunshine Coast Private Hospital, was established in 1980. It was the vision of a local GPs wife, Mrs Elsa Wilson, who felt it unnecessary that her husband and his patients should have to travel to Nambour for hospitalisation.

Mike Ahern, Member for Landsborough, dedicated a stone to the commencement of construction works at the hospital in June 1979.

Wickham Point, Caloundra, was the site of Matron Janet White’s Whitecliffe hospital which opened on May 13, 1948.

Janet White had been nursing for seven years when she decided Caloundra needed a hospital. She leased the WWII Port War naval signal station building in Victoria Terrace in 1947 and renovated the disused site with equipment she bought at auctions in Brisbane.

The hospital accommodated six patients and had surgery for minor operations. Attending doctors were Dr Tony Parer of Maleny and Dr La Barte Cummins of Caloundra. 78 of Caloundra’s ‘baby boomer’ babies were born at Whitecliffe. Whitecliffe Hospital closed when Caloundra Public Hospital opened in 1967.

Caloundra’s Andrea Ahern Private Hospital, currently known as the Caloundra Private Hospital, was built in 1984 and opened with 40 acute medical surgical beds and one operating theatre.

Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital, owned and operated by Ramsay Health Care, opened at Birtinya on November 4, 2013, offering a comprehensive range of inpatient and day services across a wide range of specialties.

Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital will be collocated with the future Sunshine Coast Public University Hospital, on the Kawana Health Campus and currently treats public patients under contract to the Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, while the new public hospital is built and commissioned.

Learn more about the Coast’s unique history by reading our Backward Glance series. There’s a new story every Wednesday.