IT was a proud anniversary for one of the Shoalhaven’s landmarks on Saturday but champagne corks weren’t flying - purely for medical reasons.
Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Shoalhaven District Memorial Hospital but it was a birthday that nearly went unnoticed except for the keen memory of the Register’s resident historian Alan Clark, who chanced upon a document about the hospital’s original opening.
Described as a “red letter day in the history of Shoalhaven”, the opening was a climax to many years of agitation by the town to gain a public hospital.
Until its construction, Nowra was served by private hospitals, the last of which were the Shoalhaven Private Hospital in Bridge Road that closed at the end of 1950, and Edman Private Hospital which handled maternity cases.
More than 1500 people were present for the official opening. In charge of proceedings was board chairman Walter Watson, and he welcomed members of the NSW Hospital Commission, along with Shire President Harry Cox and State Member Jack Beale who performed the opening ceremony.
But the day belonged to Dr Frederick Rodway who had looked after the health needs of the community for close to 40 years.
He had been on a committee formed after World War I to work towards a Nowra hospital, and he described the new building as a “fine institution”.
Before unlocking the door, Dr Rodway said that “the chief use of the key is to keep out intruders”.
“In this event, however, we will remain open to give medical and surgical relief to all who require it at any hour of day or night.
“Such being the case, a key is superfluous,” he added, as he threw it into the delighted crowd.
The hospital initially had 20 beds which were used mainly for adult patients.
Within a month of the opening, it took over Edman Private Hospital, which became the Edman Maternity Annexe with 16 beds.