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Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital turns 100
Thanks have been given for the past, and plans made for the future, at a celebration of the Murray Bridge hospital’s centenary. See the historic photos.
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A century ago on Sunday, a crowd gathered around a stone building in a paddock on the outskirts of Murray Bridge.
The Governor, Lieutenant General Sir Tom Bridges, was there; musicians played; and a flag fluttered in the breeze.
The occasion was the opening of Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, a permanent tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the many local men who had served in the Great War only five years earlier.
As health advisory council chair Greg O’Brien put it on Sunday: “the hospital was conceived not only as a place of healing, but as a living tribute to the men and women who answered the call of duty and made sacrifices for our freedom and community”.
Since that day, thousands have been born, visited or seen out their days at the hospital, and hundreds of staff have spent their careers there.
A hundred years of memories were brought back at the Imperial Football Club on Sunday for a celebration of the centenary.
There to cut the cake was Murray Jaensch, aged in his late 90s, whose grandfather William Jaensch donated the four acres of land on which the hospital was built.
On a slide show were dozens of historic photos – see the galleries below – and in a back room was memorabilia including building plans and alarming medical implements.
Reminiscing over lunch were about 100 current and former staff members, volunteers and community members.
Mr O’Brien took the opportunity to give thanks: to generations of doctors for their expertise and commitment, nurses for their selflessness and nurturing spirit, and to Bridge Clinic and volunteers from Sunshiners, Meals on Wheels and elsewhere for their long association.
“We’re proud of our hospital, and grateful for those who came before us,” he said.
Private hospitals existed in Murray Bridge before the war, including Sister Bock’s on Adelaide Road.
In 1919, about 100 retired soldiers, Mobilong council representatives and members of the Cheer-Up Society, Red Cross and Fathers’ Association met to decide on a suitable memorial for the fallen.
The decision to build a hospital, rather than a cenotaph or hall, had proven pivotal to Murray Bridge’s development, local health network chair Peter Joyner suggested.
“In the early 1900s, a hospital being built and developed was a mark of a town that was going to survive and flourish,” he said.
“If you look around Australia, towns that don’t have hospitals eventually die away.”
Community members raised £2000 – about $157,000 in today’s money – to make sure the project could go ahead.
The hospital now has 46 beds – 20 more than when it opened – plus four chemotherapy and four dialysis chairs, a new emergency department, radiology and pathology services, and a maternity suite where about 250 babies are born each year.
But it could still do with improving, Dr Joyner said.
New dialysis and maternity wards were at the top of the wish list, and would figure prominently in a master plan that was being developed.
“This hospital is an integral part of Murray Bridge,” he said.
“Having accessible, high-quality health services is vital to the way we want to live.”
With Murray Bridge growing at a rate of two to four per cent per year, Mayor Wayne Thorley noted, it was important that local health services kept up: “health care has to be here for those people who want to live here”.
State and federal MPs Adrian Pederick and Tony Pasin, both in opposition at present, also called on governments to invest in the hospital.
“Our obligation as custodians of that facility … is to make sure the facility is there to service the community over the next 100 years,” federal MP Tony Pasin said.
A chuckle went around the room at that.
Who would be alive to see the bicentenary?
But before the function ended, Mr O’Brien announced that a baby girl had been born on the morning of the centenary, at 2.42am.
Life went on.
More information about the Murray Bridge Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital health advisory council: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.