The Nurses Quarters finally opens

Whether it was because the Government of the day wished to placate the hospital staff, or because the hospital had acquired a royal name or for other long-term reasons, the Minister followed up the name change by announcing plans for an upgrading of the hospital. 

The long awaited Nurses Quarters, named in honour of Matron Clarice Dickson, were opened in 1935. It had taken a long time for the nurses at Little Bay to be properly accommodated.

Matron McMaster had officially requested a home in 1904. Plans had been on the drawing board from 1921 and were finally approved by the then Minister for Health in 1926.

In January 1927 the Medical Superintendent, Dr Millard, the Sub-Matron, Sister  Dickson and the Coast Manager, Robert Goldrick had been called as witnesses before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Public Works investigating the suitability and urgency of the work.

The proposed plan was for a three storeyed brick building arranged on four sides around a quadrangle. The north west side would house the kitchen block and dining rooms. It would accommodate 219 nurses.

The Committee resolved, that the proposed scheme for the erection of a Nurses’ Quarters at the Coast Hospital, as referred to them by the Legislative Assembly was suitable and should be carried out.

Matron Burne and Sister Dickson were elated but not for long. The Government were voted out of office later that year. The new Government shelved the proposal and the onset and intensity of the depression ensured it stayed there. 

The upturn in the economy from 1934, the general deterioration of the buildings at the Coast and the lack of hospital accommodation in the city were some of the factors that precipitated the building program at the hospital.

The quarters were built to the 1927 plan and did not provide enough accommodation for all the nurses in 1935. In 1936 the former residence for the staff of the Eastern Extension Cable Company at La Perouse was still used for night nurses’ quarters. The timber cottages near the home would also be used for night nurses

Everyone was delighted with the new accommodation, especially the singles with a bed, wardrobe, dressing table and small desk-type table in a finished stain. The mattress of kapok and horse hair was very firm but this was considered to be beneficial. Nurses who came from large families may not have had a room of their own before. Lots of bathrooms with an abundance of hot water was a decided improvement on quarters with one or two bathrooms tor 30 or more girls. 

The Sub-Matron had a suite of rooms on the ground floor. A brick cottage was erected south of the Home for the Matron In the catering area the advantage of the kitchen adjoining the sisters’ and nurses’ dining rooms was at once apparent, the food was served hot. 

The same rules applied to the new dining area as were applicable in the old Hill dining room. The tables were covered with starched white damask cloths and seating was allotted on a class basis.

The junior tables were served by junior general staff and senior general staff looked after seniors and the sisters dining room. Full uniform was worn at meals or if in civilian dress a hat was worn. The starched damask serviettes were placed in pigeonholed cupboards near the door and each nurse had her own serviette rolled in her own serviette ring. The meals were not supervised and the nurses came and went as they wished within the designated time of the meal hours. 

A Housekeeper or Home Sister controlled the Home, supervising the domestic staff and the catering Nurses were required to keep their rooms tidy, make their beds every day, not leave hot irons on the ironing boards etc., otherwise all cleaning was done by the domestic staff. 

The Matron Dickson Nurses Home was included in the Heritage Register application for Prince Henry Precinct when the hospital was closed. The building, now called The Dickson, has been converted into residential apartments.