The 1876 annual report of Wollongong’s Albert Memorial Hospital revealed some interesting details, not least of all the fact that, unlike today, the average stay per patient was 41 days – and the longest 296 days.
The report showed that 39 patients had been admitted during the year, receiving food, medicine and nursing for the nominal fee of several shillings a day.
Of these patients, five died in the wards, 32 were discharged and two remained under treatment by the hospital’s medical officers, Dr Lyons and Dr Thomas.
‘‘In addition to the indoor patients, six persons received medical attention in their own homes,’’ the Mercury reported.
Care of the region’s poor was originally administered by a regional branch of the Benevolent Society.
This was until 1869 when the society was amalgamated with the hospital’s newly formed Outdoor Relief Department.
As part of the department’s operation, funds were rounded up by a group of charitable women known as ‘‘Lady Collectors’’.
These monies were then presented to the hospital treasurer, who divided them equally between the indoor and outdoor departments of the hospital.
‘‘By exerting themselves on behalf of the institution, the Lady Collectors in the various parts of the district will be doing a noble work in giving relief to the poor, needy and destitute,’’ the Mercury said.
In 1876, the tremendous sum of £79 was collected, this benefiting 28 people – 10 males and 18 females.
The hospital’s meagre income ensured that on occasion supplies ran low and staff would find cause to make a call for public assistance.
Such was the case in June 1869 when an announcement was made for ‘‘old rags’’. The reason was not stipulated, but one could imagine that bandages were among the necessary provisions.
‘‘So short is the supply on hand just now that we are informed if any accident should occur, there would be a difficulty in treating a patient as would be required,’’ the Mercury said.
‘‘There are few families in which a few old linen articles cannot be found which are perfectly useless in ordinary use, but which would be highly serviceable for hospital purposes.’’
The injury of a young boy at Foxground in May 1876 showed the great lengths to which one had to go to receive hospital care.
Having suffered a fractured right leg and left arm after being run over by the wheel of a dray, the boy had to be carried in a litter from Foxground to Kiama, before waiting overnight for a steamer to transport him to Wollongong.
For a handy list of churches in the lllawarra, together with addresses and contact numbers, go to www.illawarraweddinas.com.au.