War time restricts hospital activity

Prince Henry Hospital, situated as it was between Little Bay, the entrance to Botany Bay and the Bunnerong power house, prepared for war. Trenches were dug, sandbag and brick protective walls were erected and the staff was warned on several occasions to be ready to evacuate the hospital at a few minutes notice and retreat to a country site previously arranged. This, fortunately, was not necessary. 

By 1941 the old Coast area had acquired some Army buildings constituting the 120th (Special) General Hospital, and in view of this, the whole of the area and foreshores were for a time placed out of bounds to the nursing staff. Apart from this area, which was now under Army jurisdiction, the total bed capacity of the hospital was reduced to 200 “protectable” beds and only casualty and acute emergency cases were admitted.

In 1942 Dr. A. E. Platt, late Professor of Bacteriology at the Adelaide University, was appointed Acting Director of the Department of Pathology. Dr. Byrom was seconded to the University of Sydney to assist in the Red Cross Serum Drying Unit, much of the preliminary work of which had been done at this hospital. 

It had been earlier decided that in view of the likelihood of air-raid and war casualties occurring among the civilian population in Sydney as a result of the Japanese Pacific offensive, a blood transfusion service should be established. An expert sub-committee was appointed in 1940 to make recommendations to the New South Wales State Medical Coordination Committee. The sub-committee consisted of Dr. A. H. Tebbutt (Chairman), Professor W. K. Inglis, Colonel A. M. McIntosh, Dr. E. M. Day, Dr. F. B. Byrom, Dr. E. L. Morgan, Dr. A. D. Gillies, and Major E. B. Jones and E. F. Thomson were members before their departure overseas. Following the sub-committee’s recommendations, the Blood Transfusion Service was started in Sydney under the Red Cross Society, with Dr. R. J. Walsh the Transfusion Medical Officer.

Mr. R. J. Heffron, M.L.A., was appointed in 1942 to the Board of Directors on which he served until 1959. Mr. F. W. Marks, who had been chairman of the Board since its inception in 1936 following the passing of the Prince Henry Hospital Act, died in 1943. He had been a very able chairman, who took a great interest in the welfare of the institution, and his passing was a blow to the Post-Graduate Medical School at the hospital, as he was particularly interested in making it a success. The new Infectious Block was named the F. W. Marks Pavilion in his memory.

The Second World War took its toll of the staff of all the hospital departments. Nursing sisters served in all theatres of the war: the Middle East, Europe and the Pacific area. Some were lost at Singapore and in the hospital ship Centaur, which was torpedoed off the east coast of Australia.

Many were mentioned in despatches: Sister Rochester was awarded the Royal Red Cross. Sister Geddes was the first senior sister of the R.A.A.F. in New South Wales. Ninety-six members of the staff employed at the hospital at the time war was declared, as well as many ex-trainees, served in the forces overseas.

Practically all the honorary medical staff were in the armed forces, making the work of those who were unable to obtain release from hospital service arduous in the extreme.

1945, the year the war finally finished, saw a total admissions list of 8,202, a daily occupied bed average of 434, with an average stay of twenty-one days. The average cost per patient per year was of the order of £330.