Celebrating 210 years of compassionate care

In 1816 the General Hospital on Sydney’s Macquarie Street began providing medical care for the colony’s convicts. The hospital was Governor Lachlan Macquarie’s first public work, and as the government was unable to pay for it, he struck up a deal with three merchants instead.

In exchange for a monopoly on the importation of 45,000 gallons of rum to the colony, these contractors built Macquarie’s hospital, which as a result, became popularly known as the ‘Rum Hospital’.

Each year, the laying of the Foundation stone of Sydney’s oldest hospital is celebrated by acknowledging their exceptional staff.

Although this year’s ceremony was held virtually for the first time via zoom, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the many fraught moments created by the second wave of the pandemic made it more meaningful than ever.

The past 12 months have been very challenging for all our staff,” said the hospital’s Director of Clinical Services, Dr Pauline Rumma. “This year, more than ever, the Foundation Day brings us all together to reflect and share our collective experiences.”

One of the most moving aspects of the awards, as always, was the Anita Cobby Memorial Grant. The murder of the beautiful nurse on her way home 35 years ago shocked the nation.

The Cobby family have continued to provide educational support for Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital nurses undertaking tertiary studies for many years in memory of their beloved daughter.

This year’s recipient is Dr Therese Riley, Nurse Manager of Clinical Practice and Development and Leadership Capabilities.

Dr William Yates won the award of the Junior Medical Officer, and Rhiannon Young for Staff Achievement. The peri-operative care project team won the Team Award, and the cataract waitlist reduction won the award for Clinical Innovation.

Staff and volunteers were also awarded long service medals, the most impressive being Ken Arthurson and Dr Ian Dunlop for 35 years service. Fay Skulthorpe was awarded for her 35 years of volunteer service.

Although the infirmary was basic – to the point of rough – when it was opened 210 years ago, it was a big step up from the nearby dilapidated tent hospital the convict patients were transferred from. What a long way this grand old dame has come.

Staff holding Foundation Day biscuits