From beginnings in an 1864 Mechanics hall meeting, a market of donated goods and a public auction in a Raymond Street schoolroom, Gippsland’s benevolent hospital grew.
Standing proud and near to the Sale city centre on 12 acres, the Gippsland Hospital and then Gippsland Base Hospital, Central Wellington Health Service and now Central Gippsland Health Service has served the people of Gippsland since.
CGHS Librarian Hele Ried has been the custodian of many old photographs and historical information for some time. She compiled the following article.
Community spirit canvassed sufficient funds to secure government subsidy and the gazetted land bordered by Cunninghame, Foster and Palmerston streets and Guthridge Parade. The day the foundation stone was laid in November 1866 a holiday was declared. A crowd of 2000 people, the largest ever to gather in Gippsland, travelled in a colourful procession of bands and banners from Raymond to Cunninghame Street.
As stonemasons erected the first hospital building with two turrets and a dome, a 24 year old domestic suffering from typhoid fever was admitted to temporary hospital premises in York Street.
Businesses in Sale, Maffra, Rosedale and Heyfield closed for the day celebrating the official opening in August 1867.
A miner from Toongabbie with gangrenous disease of the lungs was the first inpatient of the new hospital – he stayed for 455 days.
Funds were short and Gippsland’s community were ingenious and generous. Money came from fancy costume sport meets, circus performances, gala events, a calico and pillowcase ball and items such as wrought iron entrance gates were bought from cash donations. The annual wood bee supported the hospital with loaded drays and wagons hauling tons of firewood from as far as Glengarry and Briagalong. Schoolchildren collected eggs in a drive for the hospital kitchen.
Through the depression of the 1890s, the Great War and the influenza epidemic of the 1920s, the hospital was served by many. Drs Hedley, Arbuckle, Forbes, Campbell, Hagenauer, the Reids and Macdonalds were supported by strong local committees and an increasing number of trained nurses.
Employment was created for domestics and labourers, cooks and tradesmen, dispensing technicians and book keepers and clerks.
Strong community support continued after World War II. Auxiliaries, district clubs and leagues were dedicated in their support of building and equipment projects and provided social events across Gippsland with balls, dances and sporting events. The egg appeal continued into the 1960s.
The buildings were modernised and the dome and turrets demolished making way for modern health service facilities. The Red Cross, CWA and Pink Ladies continued donating time and services.
In 2010 local businesses supported the Spring Ball and volunteers contributed to the 18th annual Sale to Lakes bike ride. The Friends of Central Gippsland Health Service, volunteer community drivers and the Community Consultative Committee gave to health programs and raised funds for equipment.
Today, Gippsland’s benevolent hospital encompasses Heyfield, Maffra, Sale, Loch Sport and Rosedale with extended services to the New South Wales border, south to the seaboard and north to the mountains.
And today the mission and values still reflect the focus on health for the people of Gippsland as first motioned by those at the Mechanics hall meeting in 1864 – close to 150 years ago.