The Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) is now Tasmania’s largest hospital and the major referral centre. Providing acute, sub-acute, mental health and aged care inpatient and ambulatory services to approximately 249,000 people in the Southern Tasmanian region. The RHH is the second longest running institution in Tasmanian and employs over 3,000 people. But what is the history behind the walls of the RHH….
Lachlan Macquarie, Governor of New South Wales, ordered the construction of this first hospital building for Hobart during his visit to Van Diemen’s Land in 1811 - the same governor who in 1810 set aside land for the building of Sydney’s first permanent hospital in Macquarie Street (later known as “The Rum Hospital”). In 1820 the first purpose-built hospital – the “new general hospital” – was opened on the site of the current Royal Hobart Hospital. Prior to this patients were treated in tents, wooden huts or a series of rented premises along the Hobart Rivulet.
The original two-storey 1820 building contained four wards and could comfortably accommodate 56 patients, although there are accounts of 70-plus patients being squeezed.
During the 1880s the hospital went through a lot of redevelopments which saw new buildings and clean wards replacing buildings associated with the ‘convict hospital’ of the past. With the opening of the children’s block in 1910 the number of beds in the hospital reached 175, which grew to 250 beds by 1925.
Noted for its “handsome style of construction”, the original sandstone buildings were eventually demolished in the late 1930s as the new acute building, today known as “C” block, opened with 304 beds, making the hospital one of the most up-to-date hospitals in the country
After a car accident in 1935 the Premier of the time, Albert Ogilvie, spent ten days recovering from a fractured nose and chest injuries in the hospital. After his stay Premier Ogilvie decided a more modern building was required and persuaded Cabinet to agree to this development.
Each passing decade saw old buildings replaced by more modern structures. Like most other hospitals, redevelopment work has always gone on, and many millions of dollars have gone into the modern facilities available today.
In the early twentieth century there was controversy around the hospital becoming a public hospital. 1937 saw the title of “Royal” conferred on the hospital, together with a coat of arms incorporating heraldry representing a teaching hospital located in the City and Port of Hobart. The Latin motto underneath the arms is translated as To Care With Compassion.
The post war decades were characterised by further physical development and the hospital obtaining postgraduate recognition in many specialities and reaching the status of an undergraduate teaching hospital.
1970 saw the officially opening of the North East Building, now known as A Block, by HRH Queen Elizabeth II.
Between 1995 and 1999 a series of significant projects were undertaken to upgrade and redevelop nearly 80% of the campus to support its status as a tertiary and teaching centre.
Also in 1999, the Hobart Private Hospital was co-located on to the Royal site, occupying the Queen Alexandra Wing.
Recent developments have included a new $15.4m Emergency Department opened in March 2007 and the “infill” building completed in late 2007 containing the state’s first combined neonatal and paediatric intensive care unit, an expanded pain management clinic, two new operating theatres and recovery rooms and additional support areas.