Bravery bandages and bedpans Infographic Polio

Poliomyelitis is caused by a virus. It is spread by droplets from infected mucus membranes or via contaminated faeces. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) aims to eradicate polio worldwide. In 1988, when GEPI began, polio paralysed more than 1000 children every day. Since then, more than 2.5 billion children in 200 countries have been immunized against polio thanks to the work of 20 million volunteers. Overall, global incidence of polio cases has decreased by 99%.

1945-54 Poliomyelitis Epidemic

The poliomyelitis epidemics that occurred between 1945 and 1954 were the worst outbreaks of that disease recorded in Australia.  Joan Bushnell (1937-41) was a ward sister during the peak years:

The term “infantile paralysis” was a misnomer, adolescents and young adults were the principal victims. This caused emotional stress in young trainees resulting in some resignations. Sisters and senior nurses were distressed by the unhindered and wanton destruction of lovely young bodies. 

The pathology department or more specifically the Institute of Epidemiology and Preventative Medicine, headed by Dr A. Platt and later Dr Neville Stanley engaged in valuable research during the polio epidemics. This led to an early and accurate identification of the type of polio virus, which aided the medical and nursing teams. These brilliant scientists also developed a live vaccine which was stopped at the human experimentation stage because the Commonwealth Health Department favoured an inactivated type of vaccine.

Prince Henry Hospital Matron Mcnevin
Matron McNevin
Prince Henry Hospital Matron Croll
Matron Croll


Gaby - A True Survivor

Gabrielle Hannemann contracted Polio at the age of 2. She spent 6-years at Prince Henry Hospital before being released back into the care of her family. Read Gaby's full story.

Building & Development

In 1954 the three-storeyed, 106 bed Marks Pavilion (named after Mr FW. Marks Chaiman of the Board (1936-42) was incorporated as a hospital building and opened for patients.

Erected in 1941 by the Commonwealth Government during the military epidemics, it was intended to house Army patients for use during duration of the war. It was poorly constructed and was not accepted by the hospital Board e.g. the roof leaked badly. The Commonwealth Government refused to do any repairs. It was a “take it or leave it situation.

Nurses, who knew nothing of the wrangle, began and ended their training wondering why this attractive brick building remained shut and empty when the old corrugated iron and fibro Bush Wards were full of patients.

Apparently the Commonwealth Government soon forgot about Prince Henry’s remarkable contribution to the war effort and concentrated on the construction of “Yaralla”, a Military Hospital at Concord from 1942.

The new five-storeyed Nurses Home,named in honour of Matron McNevin, containing 200 single rooms and apartments for executive nursing staff was completed in 1955. Matron’s small brick cottage had been demolished to make way for the new building. Everyone deeply regretted the demolition of the only sandstone building at Little Bay, the small Entrance Lodge, a waiting room-cum-post office built early in the century, which was removed when a new Pathology building was erected.

During 1955, consideration was also given to the building of a new laundry and boilerhouse, the latter to provide high pressure steam to the whole hospital.

A maternity unit of ninety beds was also envisaged together with accommodation for pre-maternity and outpatient departments. This ambition was never realised.