Celebrating 200 years of hospital health care in Newcastle | PHOTOS

NEWCASTLE’S achievements in health care during the past 200 years are something to be remembered and celebrated, as history shows the Hunter’s medical fraternity to be a down-to-earth but determined bunch, Dr Ross Kerridge says.

The Hunter Postgraduate Medical Institute will host a public event at HMRI on Saturday to mark the 200th anniversary of the first hospital opening in Newcastle.

Event convenor Dr Kerridge said while there had been many changes in the past 200 years, such as the closing of the old Royal Hospital on Newcastle beach, the region’s health care was not defined by buildings, bricks or location, but by “people, commitment, and a sense of vocation.”

“It is easy to focus on the negative things,” he said.

“But I think we should concentrate on celebrating all that we have achieved, and are continuing to achieve.

“The buildings may move around, but we’ve got an ongoing tradition of healthcare and hospitals in Newcastle that has its own particular flavour of being based in the community, not taking itself too seriously, of being hard-working and getting on with it – and making do with less resources than people in Sydney have, and that’s an ongoing thing – it’s been there for 200 years, and it’s going to continue for another 200 years.”

Throughout Saturday’s event, the general public would learn about the history of health care in the region, such as battle to get the John Hunter Hospital established.

“There was a huge political fight, and they had to fight,” Dr Kerridge said.

“The waterside workers threatened to blockade all the ports of NSW unless Neville Wran agreed to fund John Hunter Hospital.

“That would have been in the early 1980s.

“Essentially, they had the old Royal, the Mater, and the Western Suburbs Hospital at Waratah, which was a tin shed, and Wallsend – and they were bursting at the seams. But the government in Sydney was still reluctant to cough up the money, and hello, we’re hearing the same thing again about Maitland.

“They are not going to cough up the money easily. You can’t just say we want our fair share, no. You have to fight for it.”

Event-goers would also learn how Newcastle became known as the “Bex capital of the world,” and how our penchant for “a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down” contributed to the opening of a renal department from the subsequent kidney damage.

There will be stories about the Newcastle Medical School, the Hunter medicos who worked on the Burma Railway, and why Newcastle is a good place to have a stroke.

The free event is on at the HMRI building on November 11. Registration from 8.20am.