The AIDS Unit was established at Prince Henry Hospital in 1986. It is the general scientific consensus that Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) found in African primates spread to humans as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the infection that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) some time early in the 20th Century. During the 1980s the infection took root in western society, overwhelmingly affecting gay men, intravenous drug users and haemophiliacs after some blood products were contaminated. In 1983 a man who had returned to Melbourne from overseas was the first person diagnosed in Australia.
The 1970’s and 1980’s would not be the best decades in The Coast-Prince Henry’s long history as a hospital. Its designation as the first teaching hospital of the new Medical School at the University of N.S.W. was not as beneficial as had been promised. The frantic activity of refurbishing, rebuilding and initiating new departments that took place in the first four years of the 1960’s was slowing down as more and more of Prince Henry’s resources and the funds availabie to the Board of Directors were diverted to create a new hospital on the Prince of Wales site at Randwick.
There can be no comparison made between the hours and conditions endured by nurses in the early part of this century and those existing from the 1970s onwards as this history shows.
Liberation from the designated women’s place in society was a major reason for exchanging the home role for four years of virtual slavery in hospital wards and the nunnery type restrictions of nurses’ homes.
There was little time and not much inclination for trained and training nurses to become involved in a deep analysis of the nursing condition. They knew they were exploited but accepted it as a precondition to professional status. The reward for becoming a registered nurse was a specialised education and an acknowledgement of their special skills in a society where women were relegated to an auxiliary role of helpers not leaders. Most of all they could choose to work or marry. The nursing certificate was a kind of life insurance.
The principal motivation for enduring any kind of nursing course had to be and still is a conscious desire to alleviate suffering humanity. This remains the energy that fuels the nursing profession.
The 1988 celebrations that marked the 200th Anniversary of the British colonisation of Australia were marred by the announced intention of the Minister for Health in the new Liberal Country Party Government, to close Prince Henry and relocate its facilities into a new super hospital to be built at the Prince of Wales Randwick. This would be partly financed by the sale of Prince Henry’s public-owned coastal land at Little Bay.
At the time the 106 year old medical institution was functioning as a leading six level Referral Hospital with recognised world class departments which included Urology, Cardiology, Neurology, Neurosurgery and Spinal Injuries. Among other special facilities were a Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory and the multimillion dollar Lithotripsy Centre containing the advanced technological apparatus known as the Lithotripter. This apparatus smashes kidney stones with ultra sound waves while the patient relaxes in a large tub of warm water, often eliminating the need for surgical intervention and prolonged pain for many sufferers. The Hyperbaric Unit’s usefulness was extending far beyond its use as a decompression chamber for divers with the “bends” e.g research into high pressure oxygen in vascular lesions in the spinal cord had been in progress since 1976
Prince Henry was ideally located for an air ambulance service. A heliport at Little Bay was located south of the Doctor’s Quarters, although helicopters also use the oval in front of the “good as new” 1890 cottages, one of which is now an operational centre and pilots’ mess of the Air, Sea Rescue Unit, next to the new Accident and Emergency Centre.
The Infectious Division in the Marks Pavilion was responding to the demands of the growing number of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (A.I.D.S) victims and other infections, such as Hepatitis and Tuberculous.
Prince Henry was still a nurses’ training school where graduates from the colleges receive their workface experience and it also provided a two year training course for university graduates with appropriate degrees to qualify as registered nurses.
In short the hospital was busy with patient care.
In September 1988 Mr Collins announced that P.H.H. would be closed and its facilities relocated into a tower block to be erected in a super hospital to be built on the P.O.W. site and Prince Henry state-owned coastal land would be sold.
The Minister’s announcement… was as shocking as it was unexpected. None of the Executive Nursing Staff at P.H.H. had been forewarned. The Minister made his announcement in a speech at a breakfast session of the Institute of Nursing Administrators of N.S.W. and A.C.T. conference held at Prince Henry, chaired and hosted by an astounded Mrs Joan Englert, Director of Nursing at Prince Henry. The Minister, the Hon. Peter Collins, was unaware that Mrs Englert had not been informed by the administering Board, the Eastern Sydney Area Health Service, which he claimed had advised and recommended the closure and relocation of Prince Henry and the sale of its land. Joan Englert’s reserves of self-control were severely strained as she efficiently conducted the remainder of the session.