Coast Hospital develops quickly

DURING the 1920’s the entrance gates were located beside a little sandstone lodge. The open wooden gates were hung with a notice requesting that they always be kept closed. 

Mr. Charlie Stone was foreman carpenter. His cottage was on the right and a road passed off to the left, along which was a series of cottages, which housed various members of the lay and medical staff.  

The earliest of the cottages was built in 1891 and the rest were completed by 1915; No. 1 was removed to make way for the administrative block; Nos. 2 and 3 (“Baretville”) for the pathology building. The others were still in use until at least the 1960s. Beyond cottage 9 were the “military quarters” which housed those nurses staffing the “military wards”. These were immediately beyond the quarters themselves. 

The original administration block was of wood and iron construction and much smaller than its successor. It was originally built by the Army in 1917, as a mess-room and kitchen for military patients, and was later converted to the main office, dispensary, store and Outpatients Department. 

Wards 1 to 6 were, on the right-hand side of the main hospital road which passed straight down towards the sea, flanked on either side by the magnificent avenue of Norfolk pines, which formed such a characteristic and picturesque feature of the hospital grounds. 

Proceeding along the main road, a kiosk was on the left, then a tall concrete water tower. A hundred yards farther on could be seen “Canary Cottage”, which served as quarters for those medical officers on duty in the Infectious Division of the hospital. The cottage was so named after a current musical play of that name and was built in 1918. It was demolished when new doctors quarters were built in 1931. 

It was essential to have the medical staff who were caring for diphtheria cases close at hand, in case an urgent tracheotomy became necessary. Whenever a child with diphtheria was intubated because the airway was becoming blocked with diphtheritic membrane, a special nurse was detailed to stay at the bedside in case the tube should be coughed out and the child suffocate. The nurse had a buzzer which she pressed whenever this happened and this sounded a bell at the bedside of the resident in “Canary Cottage. The resident leapt out of bed and raced down to the ward in bare feet and pyjamas, realizing that seconds were vital and could mean the difference between life and death for a sick child. 

On the other side of the road, opposite “Canary Cottage”, stood the manager’s house, just below which another road branched off to the right and passed directly down to the Coast area behind the ornamental lake.

At various times large numbers of the staff were under voluntary quarantine, while the isolation of the Coast discouraged frequent trips away from the hospital. Those living at the Coast Hospital formed an unusually self-contained community, so adequate recreational facilities were deemed necessary. The medical and nursing staff held frequent swimming, golf and tennis events and the atmosphere of the Coast quarters was one of friendly informality, occasionally disturbed by disciplinary action by the Medical Superintendent, Dr. R. J. Millard. 

The fact that the honorary surgeon, Dr. E. T. Thring, was accompanied on each of his operating days at the hospital by Mrs. Thring, complete with picnic basket, also contributed to the happy atmosphere. 

A short distance below “Canary Cottage” and on the left side of the road was the group of buildings comprising the Infectious Division, numbering wards 11 to 17, and it was here that cases of measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough and so on were admitted.

The “San quarters were the living quarters for those nurses working in the infectious area. Ward 16 and the old kitchen, later used as offices and experimental laboratories, were the only surviving buildings of this group, apart from “14 quarters”, a cottage once used as nurses and maids quarters, with an attractive view over the valley with its vegetable gardens, the pines surrounding the grounds of the male lazaret and in the distance, Little Bay.

Beyond the Infectious Division on the walk towards the sea, came the female lazaret. A road branched off to the left just below the lazaret and led to the quarters for the “bob-a-day” men, the workshops, stabling yards and then to the male lazaret on the north side of Little Bay.

Following the line of pine trees, the road narrowed into a path which proceeded along the top of the retaining wall of the dam. Once used as the fresh water supply of the old hospital, this was later converted under the inspiration of Mr. Goldrick, the manager of the Coast Hospital at that time, into an ornamental lake graced with swans and bordered by terraces of hydrangeas with peacocks and deer.