Sale Hospital 150th Anniversary 1867-2017 - Researching a remarkable history

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Thursday 05 October 2017
Former Critical Care nurse and local historian Ann Synan is helping to preserve our history.

Former nurse and local historian Ann Synan discovered several decades back volumes of old books lying in a hospital storage shed. To her surprise they covered patient admissions from the opening in temporary premises through to the 1960s.
Ann describes the records as “irreplaceable”. Fortunately, not long after they were re-discovered, a then hospital surgeon, David Fitzpatrick, was a member of the local historical society and was also doing a book binding course, so he carried out some preservation work. However Ann said they need to be digitised so the originals could be safely stored for posterity. “They need to be accessible without handling as they are too big, too heavy and too fragile.” So Ann has volunteered to undertake the task of scanning them. Each of the huge books has 500 pages so it will take some time. She is using a software application that allows her to scan the pages with a special camera and turn them into a PDF format. Ann acknowledges is a very time-consuming task but she is working at her own pace…and learning lots about our history along the way. The records show there were 20 patients treated in the York Street temporary hospital there over a six month period, predominantly men and no children.   “There were lots of trauma cases from throughout Gippsland in earlier times, especially from the Walhalla mines and the Dargo goldfields,” Ann said. “There were agricultural accidents too. Most were brought in by horseback, wagon and later, by train. There was an ambulance stretcher kept at the railway station for transport to the hospital, more than 2kms away.  “There were frequent epidemics of infectious diseases such as diphtheria and typhoid fever, and particularly in the 1930s and early 1950s, devastating outbreaks of poliomyelitis, affecting both adults and children.”  “In earlier times, there were no public hospitals at Bairnsdale (1880s) or Traralgon (1950s) so Sale was the major hospital. It was twice as big as it is today.”