NSW Government NSW Health
South Eastern Sydney Local Health District
nsw health

Historical Overview

Timeline: History of the Prince Henry Hospital, Little Bay

Prince Henry Hospital was initially the Coast Hospital (1881 - 1936) becoming Prince Henry Hospital (1936 - 2003)

Date Event
The Coast Hospital was established to deal with a growing epidemic of Smallpox in Sydney. The site at Little Bay was chosen because of it’s isolation from the population of the city.
In July the Horse Ambulance was established upon the outbreak of Smallpox, and disbanded in February/March 1882 once the outbreak was declared over.
The Coast Hospital was converted to a convalescent hospital for patients from the metropolitan hospitals in Sydney. As it was no longer a part of the quarantine services of Sydney the management of the property was transferred to the Colonial Secretary’s Department.
Dr. Bradley Viollette appointed as the Coast Superintendent.
The Coast Hospital’s first general anaesthetic given. Chloroform was first used as general anaesthetic by James Simpson in 1847.
The Coast Hospital became a “fever hospital”, treating diseases such as diptheria; tuberculosis; small pox; measles and scarlet fever.

Water and sewerage services installed and a new Lazaret opened to accommodate patients suffering from Leprosy who were kept isolated from the general hospital population.

The Clock Tower was constructed.

An outbreak of Bubonic plague occurred in Sydney. [Rat Catchers] [Rats]

In December a steam tram started running out to the hospital.
In August an electric tram replaced the steam service to the Coast hospital.
Chloroform was replaced by Kelene (ethyl chloride) and ether for anaesthesias.
Trial conducted at The Coast Hospital on the use of Compound 606 (arsephenamine, discovered by Paul Ehrlich and Sahachiro Hata, commonly known as Salvarsan) in the treatment of Syphilis conducted with great success.
On the 5th February electric lighting was used for the first time at the Coast.
The Swine Influenza Pandemic, which had been sweeping, the world reached Sydney.
An outbreak of the Plague began in Sydney and patients were isolated at the Coast for treatment.
The association between The Coast Hospital and The Prince of Wales Hospital at Randwick began.

On 2nd April 1931 the MV Malabar violently struck the headland at Long Bay south of Sydney. There was no loss of life. An estimated 300, 000 people came to witness the wreck over the weekend, many to recover cargo strewn widely around the bay. [source:The Sydney Morning Herald] [photo] [photo]

The Coast Hospital renamed "The Prince Henry Hospital of Sydney".  This was done by the Minister for Health for NSW at the time, Mr R W D Weaver to compliment the visit of the Duke of Gloucester.

Major building works were undertaken at the new Prince Henry Hospital of Sydney to increase the capacity of the hospital to 1,000 beds.  This included construction of a new operating block, two three-storey ward blocks (A & B blocks) a new three-storey infectious diseases block which was partly funded by the Commonwealth.  In addition a new operating block and new kitchens were constructed during this time.

NSW Postgraduate Committee in Medicine was formed under the patronage of the University of Sydney. 
In Spetember the Hugh and Catherine McIlrath Department of Pathology was opened in a new building which was constructed on the site of the old cottages 2 & 3.  This new building was possible due to the generous donations of the McIlrath family.

In October the new nurse's accommodation was opened and called the Matron Dickson Home.


Prince Henry Hospital Act 1936 was passed on August 1st.  The Act altered the control of the hospital to the NSW Hospitals Commission and required a Board of Directors to be appointed to encourage postgraduate teaching and research.  This fulfulled the need for a postgraduate teaching hospital created by the NSW Postgraduate Committee in Medicine.

"The Board consisted of fifteen members, one from the Hospitals Commission (not a doctor), two appointed on the nomination of the Senate of the University of Sydney, one by the Coundil of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, one by the New South Wales Postgraduate Committee in Medicine of the Univeristy of Sydney, and eight members appointed by the Minister, none of whom was to be a member of the medical profession.  This provision was also to hold for the chairman of the board."  ("A Coast Chronicle: The History of the Prince Henry Hospital" Clement R Boughton, 1981 pg 66)

The Hospital produced its 1st Annual Report, June 30th.
The 120th (Special) General Hospital was constructed on the old Coast site.
The Postgraduate Committee in Medicine was closed "for the duration of the war only".  Unsuccessful attempts to restart the project took place at the end of the war.
Establishment of The Institute of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine.  This institute investigated the incidence of Coxsackie (after New York town where it was first discovered in 1948) virus (aseptic meningitis), Poliomyelitis virus and was the first to isolate REO virus.
The Matron E McNevin Home was opened for nurses accommodation.  This six storey building had 200 single rooms, a swimming pool, tennis court and golf course.
New South Wales University of Technology at Kensington was converted to a full university and renamed University of New South Wales.
The Prince Henry Hospital Act was repealed by Premier J. Cahill and the Public Hospitals Act was amended to include PHH as a Second Schedule Hospital.  The Board was then required to focus on undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in Medicine in conjunction with University of NSW and University of Sydney.

Artificial respiration unit for poliomyelitis patients built, later this became the first Intensive Care Unit.

Renal Unit opened.
The Prince Henry Hospital and The Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick are brought under one board, allowing the Hospitals to operate as a single unit.
First kidney transplant in NSW performed.
On July 1st, the management of three Hospitals, the Prince Henry, The Prince of Wales and Eastern Suburbs (which ceased operating in 1980), was the precursor of what was to become Eastern Sydney Area Health Service (ESAHS).
The fleet of motor vehicles was replaced and increased.
Department of Psychiatry extended services to The Prince of Wales Hospital in the Catherine Hayes building.
In May, the Stroke Unit moved from the Delaney Building to Level 1 of the new Dickinson building. In July, the Emergency Department also relocated to the Randwick campus. In October, the Gastroenterology Wards relocated to Dickinson Level 2.
Intensive Care amalgamated with ICU on Parkes 3, moving to Dickinson 1 South in December. Cardiology Ward and the Coronary Care Unit relocated in November.
Prince Henry's Echolab and the Cardiothoracic Surgery Service relocated in January.
March 1998
The Premier of NSW, the Hon. Bob Carr, announced the establishment of a new Centre of Excellence for Aged Care and Rehabilitation on the Prince Henry site.
Services at The Prince Henry Hospital are transferred to the Randwick campus. Landcom to develop 34 of the total 85 hectares of the Prince Henry site. This would include aged care facilities for 267 residents, accommodation for existing community groups, a small retail/commercial area, a medical centre and 800 assorted homes.
Demolition of Nurses quarters begins.
The above are links to agencies and other organisations that contain useful information. These links do not imply any endorsement, support or commercial gain by South East Sydney Local Health District or Ministry of Health or the State of New South Wales. See our Disclaimer for more information.