Australian entrepreneur Paul Ramsay changed the landscape of healthcare in the Illawarra over the past decade - recently turning the first sod on a new private hospital in Wollongong.
So when the Ramsay Health Care chairman died last Thursday after a short illness, at 78, the staff at the four private hospitals he ran in the region mourned the loss of a great man.
Figtree Private Hospital CEO David Crowe said there was an air of sadness in the wards and corridors of Figtree, Lawrence Hargrave, Nowra and Southern Highlands private hospitals after the announcement.
"He was an extraordinarily successful man but he never let that get in the way of being a genuine human being," Mr Crowe said.
He said he was glad that in March Mr Ramsay had been able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the $9 billion hospital operator that he built from a 16-bed psychiatric facility on Sydney's North Shore. It was in 2001 that the company took over the Figtree, Lawrence Hargrave and Southern Highlands hospitals, purchasing Nowra private hospital a few years later.
"All of the hospitals in this region have benefited from being part of Ramsay Health Care," Mr Crowe said.
"Then, a few years ago, Mr Ramsay recognised the need for a state-of-the-art facility in Wollongong - he believed that a big regional centre like this should be able to provide the same healthcare offered by major metropolitan hospitals."
The 149-bed private hospital, set to open in November 2015, will lease 4½ floors of the eight-storey $90 million medical precinct being built by AA Crown Holdings near Wollongong's public hospital.
"He lived in the area - he had a residence in Bowral - and the fact he came down for the turning of the sod for the new private hospital in Wollongong in November speaks volumes to the commitment he had to healthcare in the region," Mr Crowe said.
Mr Ramsay, who is believed to have suffered a heart attack, left a philanthropic bequest of more than $3 billion - one of the largest in Australian history - to charity.