THE PAST IS PRESENT: Frank Le Bacq, Nicole White and Mary Potter with some of Gympie Hospital's history and (below) the hospital as it once was.
THE PAST IS PRESENT: Frank Le Bacq, Nicole White and Mary Potter with some of Gympie Hospital's history and (below) the hospital as it once was. Scott Kovacevic

Icon's 150th birthday bash starts with trip down memory lane

Gympie Hospital turns 150: Get ready to take a trip down memory lane with this historic hospital display.
Gympie Hospital turns 150: Get ready to take a trip down memory lane with this historic hospital display.

WITH more than 14,000 inpatients, 30,000 emergency presentations and 354 births, Gympie Hospital had a busy 2017.

So how much did it do in the 148 years before that?

You will be able to find out soon, with its rich history to be on display at Gympie Library over the next fortnight to celebrate the hospital's 150th birthday.

Gympie Nursing Director Nicole White said it was remarkable to look back across the years at how it had changed from its first days as the Nashville Miners Hospital.

"When the hospital opened there wasn't a doctor, there was a wardsman who was the chief and a fever nurse,” she said.

"It was open when there were no cars, no technology, notifying the doctor was by horse... it was very parochial at that time.

The original Gympie Hospital building.
The original Gympie Hospital building. Contributed

"Looking at what people were admitted for, it was trauma or alcoholism or venereal diseases.

"People kind of died at home.”

Thanks to the efforts of the Gympie Historical Society, the library and ex-staff member Mary Potter, Gympie residents can take their own stroll through a time warp.

"They've got some original documents... some quirky stories about life and the past of the hospital have been collected, the historical society has got implements and historical medical artifacts and there's some old nurses' uniforms,” Ms White said.

"Where medicine was at that time...it was probably not until the early 1900s that it really advanced. They'd only just done all the stuff about handwashing 20 years before the hospital opened.”

"I think it's just amazing.

"I've been nursing for 30 years, so 150 years is quite substantial.”

Ex-staff member Mary Potter, who helped assemble the display with the help of the historical society and the library, said there were some wonderful tales to be told from the hospital's past.

"There's all sorts of things... they used to get the skeleton taken for a drive down the main street,” she said.

She hoped guests would get not only a sense of history, but also of magic.

A piece of the hospital's history - a diathermy machine.
A piece of the hospital's history - a diathermy machine. Scott Kovacevic

"How people have worked together to provide health services for an area that just wasn't a town, it was a cattle run,” she said.

"There was nothing. A few tents.”

Ms White's own brief research was more than enough to confirm the magnitude of the milestone.

"It's one of the oldest hospitals in Queensland. A lot of places weren't open for about another 90 years,” she said. "Royal Brisbane is older, they celebrated their 150th last year.”

Gympie Hospital was not only a place to heal, but also one of the state's largest training hospitals at one time.

In fact, Queensland's first male nurse was trained there.

The display opens tomorrow, and will run until Friday February 16. Guests can check it out from 9am-5pm weekdays (7pm on Thursdays), and 9am-midday Saturdays.