In 1927 land for a hospital at Canterbury was acquired by the Ministry for Public Works as the constructing authority with a foundation stone was laid by the Minister for Public Health, RJ Stuart-Robertson M.L.A. in October that year. One Thousand people attended the ceremony including community and fund-raising committee leaders. The Inter-war Mediterranean style building was designed by the Government Architect's Office under the direction of Richard McDonald Seymour Wells.
The Hospital was officially opened on 26 October 1929 by the Secretary of Public Works, Ernest Buttenshaw. Originally built to accommodate 28 patients in a population of 70,000, the hospital was soon utilizing the verandas to increase bed numbers to 63 patients.
In the first year 587 patients were admitted and by 1933 the number had risen to 1,083 patients per year. Patients who could afford to pay were charged seven shillings and threepence per day while patients unable to pay were treated for free. There were also 12,001 outpatient attendances.
By 1943 the hospital had 98 beds and this rose to 220 beds in 1965 with several additions to the original buildings. A new wing, Thorncraft House, recognised the tireless services of Alderman Herbert Thorncraft who was president of the Board of Directors for 11 years and patron of the hospital until his death in 1975. Kevin Stewart, who subsequently became the Minister for Health, was also active in the hospital's management as president of the board between 1955 and 1976.
When the Hospital opened it was staffed by three dentists and nine specialist consultants. Casualty was staffed on a roster basis by the 33 general practitioners who worked in the district. There were no x-ray or pathology services and these were provided by private practices. All doctors were appointed as honoraries and were expected to provide free treatment to patients without the means to pay hospital charges. The doctors formed the Canterbury-Bankstown Medical Association.
In 1972 the Canterbury District Memorial Hospital changed its name to Canterbury Hospital. In 1986, with the introduction of Area Health Services to Sydney, Canterbury Hospital became part of the Lang Area Health Service along with Bankstown and Auburn Hospitals. The boundaries of the area health services changed several times over the next ten years and in August 1995 the Hospital became part of the Central Sydney Area Health Service.
The Hospital was due to close at the end of 1996 with a new hospital to be built at Croydon Park but in April 1995 the then new Minister for Health Dr Andrew Refshauge announced the redevelopment of Canterbury Hospital at its original site, with building commencing in December 1995.
The multi-million redevelopment of the Hospital was officially opened by Premier of NSW the Hon. Bob Carr in November 1998. The new Hospital provides 215 beds, a 24 hour emergency unit, additional operating theatres, a new community health centre and modern diagnostic facilities. Canterbury Hospital is now part of Sydney Local Health District with Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Concord Hospital and Balmain Hospital with affiliations with the University of Sydney.
The most significant representation of the original Hospital, the Memorial Tower and its building on Canterbury Road, will continue to be a prominent feature of the Hospital.
We would like to thank Mr Brian Madden and Kingsclear Books for allowing us to reproduce exerts from their books.
Larcombe, F.A. Change and challenge: A history of The Municipality of Canterbury, NSW, Canterbury Municipal Council 1979.
Madden, Brian J and Muir, Lesley, Campsie's past: a history of Campsie and Croydon Park NSW, Canterbury Municipal Council 1988.
Building and Site Histories Revision 2011-12, Canterbury Hospital (original hospital buildings), 57 Canterbury Road, Campsie, Research by Lesley Muir and Brian Madden for Canterbury City Council, Canterbury Heritage Study 1988.
Lawrence, Joan, Madden, Brian and Muir, Leslie, A Pictorial history of Canterbury Bankstown, Kingsclear Books, 1999.