The Royal Children's Hospital as we know it today was founded in the late 1800s by Mary McConnel, wife of Brisbane Valley pioneer, David McConnel.
Mary was concerned about the alarming rate of infant mortality because at the time children under the age of five years could not be admitted to the General Hospital. Those that were admitted were placed in the often overcrowded adult wards with no specialised attention or care.
Convinced the young children of Brisbane deserved their own hospital, Mary formed a committee of equally determined women and together they set about the daunting task of raising the money to build a dedicated children's hospital.
The hospital first opened its doors as the Hospital for Sick Children on 11 March 1878, with an initial intake of 12 patients.
Temporarily located in a small rented house in Leichardt Street, the hospital moved to a permanent two-storey building at its current address at Herston in 1883.
In the first year of operation, an outbreak of typhoid fever in Brisbane saw the hospital treat a total of 190 children. Infectious diseases like typhoid, diphtheria, gastroenteritis and poliomyelitis were also rife among children in those days.
With limited resources, but an abundance of dedication, compassion, kindness and skill, doctors and nurses fought to save their little patients in overcrowded conditions.
By 1889, it became obvious the hospital was too small as its reputation as a haven spread. By 1890 the hospital had admitted 492 patients that year - all treated and housed in a lofty two-storied wood building now in urgent need of repair and a proper drainage system.
By 1894 it was decided to build a 120-bed brick hospital at the site and on 29 October 1895, the Lady Norman Wong opened comprising of six specialised wards.
As medical knowledge grew, so did patient numbers and medical staff. More and more youngsters were treated for diphtheria, whooping cough, pnuemonia and typhoid fever. So in demand were services that at times two children shared the same bed.
A solution was needed quickly for more space and more beds.
Through dedicated fundraising appeals and generous contributions by the well-to-do of that time, the hospital's building fund grew.
By the start of World War I, major upgrades and extensions had been completed. A diphtheria block, infant ward, operating theatre and nursing quarters housed in the Edith Cavell Block were all added to the present day site.
The hospital also took on a new name, changing to the Brisbane Children's Hospital in 1943.
By the 1950s, the look and feel of wards were also changing. They began shifting from the 'Florence Nightingale' style of the late 1800s to rooms designed to contain infectious diseases.
The new design was first trialled in the observation ward with five bays seperated by glass partitions, each containing six cots. This was to allow for early detection of diseases such as measles that could be nursed in isolation before a condition became apparent.
By 1959 there was a specialised ward to accommodate ear, nose and throat patients in a modern, air-conditioned operating theatre and by 1967, a fully refurbished outpatient department with a large dispensary and records storage was completed.
That same year, the hospital gained royal assent and became officially known as the Royal Children's Hospital, Brisbane.
It was an accolade that fittingly acknowledged the work Mary McConnel had started and the kind, dedicated and warm medical, nursing and administrative staff who tendered to the care of critically ill children.
From its early days, the hospital sought the best care for its young charges.
The medical staff embraced the technology of x-ray a year after it was discovered, performed tracheostomies when other weren't, and led the way in identifying causes of tropical anaemia.
Ward names a reflection of our rich history
A number of inpatient wards today were fondly named after our founder and past staff members:
|McConnel Ward:||Named after the founder, Mary McConnel, who passed away in 1910|
|Turner Ward:||Named after the hospital's first resident medical officer and all-round paediatric specialist|
|Paterson Ward:||Named after the hospital's first General Medical Superintendent|
|Fraser Ward:||Named after the hospital's junior surgeon who started in 1939 and was later knighted by the Queen|
Quote from Mary McConnel, 1898:
'May this institution, so dear to my heart, ever prosper.'