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brisbane general hospital royal brisbane hospital history

Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH) - George Street to Herston

First Public Hospital

The first public hospital in Brisbane, the Moreton Bay Hospital, was established on 12 January, 1849. It was the old Convict Hospital on North Quay and was grossly overcrowded trying to cater to the growing population of post convict era Brisbane and surrounding areas. In its first year, 94 patients were treated and operated that year on a budget of 370 pounds. Resident surgeon of Brisbane Hospital was Dr.Frederick Barton, 1851-1863

The hospital operated on subscriptions from those in the community who could afford to give. In turn these subscribers were issued with tickets which would entitle the bearer to medical treatment at the hospital. Those who could not afford the subscriptions and needing treatment went in search of tickets from benevolent subscribers. Another source of funds was the fines levied in the Police Courts. The dilemma of insufficient subscriptions that the Hospital Board faced is detailed in this newspaper article in 1851

By 1856 the name of Moreton Bay Hospital was changed to the Brisbane Hospital because other hospitals in various towns opened. The opening of other hospitals meant that subscriptions base dwindled and a call went out for more local subscribers as described in newspaper report.

Epidemics of diseases brought in from the tropics swept through Brisbane such as malaria, dengue fever, typhus, typhoid, amoebic dysentery and smallpox. Gunshot wounds and knife injuries from numerous bar and street brawls requiring surgery, were on the rise. Hyperlinks to newspaper report of Annual General Meetings of the Hospital Committee document the diseases and injuries the hospital treated during the previous year.

In the 1860s tropical diseases were introduced by the unfortunate South Sea Islanders or Kanakas, who were 'Blackbirded' and brought to Brisbane and northern Queensland where they were forced to work on cotton plantations and cane fields. The practice was outlawed by the Queensland Government in the 1890s and most Islanders were sent home.

Bowen Hospital

With no support by the previous New South Wales government, the building of a larger hospital was delayed until the Queensland Government accumulated sufficient funds of its own.

Bowen Hospital's, main building in Herston was designed by the architect Charles Tiffin with the involvement of others. The new hospital was built and supervised by Andrew Petrie and completed in 1867. Standing on land at Herston, the facility contained Fever Wards, long low blocks located just behind the main building. The patients were moved from the hospital in George Street to the new Brisbane Hospital on 8th January, 1867. There were complaints that the new hospital was located too far out of the town and would have been better sited at Spring Hill or Petrie Terrace. A newspaper report from 1869 describes the hospital and facilities. The first nurses graduated from the hospital in 1888.

Over 2,000 cases of typhoid which ravaged early Brisbane, were admitted to the wards between 1880 and 1896. This epidemic caused a considerably higher death rate greater than the rest of Australia. Diseases resulting from the rapid influx of immigrant labour to Brisbane passing through to the goldfields, included the outbreak of bubonic plague, which was borne by

shipboard rats. The first Resident Surgeon, Dr Joseph Bancroft became renowned for research into the role of insects and parasites in the transmission of tropical diseases, in particular blindness caused by the adult female filarial worm. Bancroft's work resulted in a treatment and aided the successful settlement by Europeans into subtropical Brisbane and the tropical north.

In 1966, Queen Elizabeth 2nd gave permission to use the prefix "Royal" to the Brisbane Hospital and in 1967, the Queen also approved the use of the "Royal" prefix for the Brisbane Women's Hospital.

Doctor Marks was a visiting surgeon at the Royal Brisbane Hospital from 1883 - 1904. His practice was situated at Wickham Terrace, Brisbane. He was a Member for the Legislative Council from 1888 - 1922 and President of the Medical Association of Queensland in 1897.

Joseph Bancroft (1836-1894) was one of the leading scientists in Queensland in the 19th century. Born in Manchester, he studied medicine at Royal School of Medicine in Manchester, 1859. Joseph and his family arrived in Brisbane in 1864 where he was registered by the Queensland Medical Board in 1865 and appointed visiting surgeon to the Brisbane Hospital in 1867. Joseph Bancroft died suddenly on 16 June, 1894.

Portrait of Dr. K. I. O'Doherty, Hon. Consultant, Brisbane Hospital. Born 7 September 1823 in Dublin, Ireland. O'Doherty became involved in the Young Ireland Movement and was sentenced to transportation to Hobart town for treason-felony in 1849. Granted a ticket-of-leave the next year, he returned to Europe, graduating as a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1857. He returned

to Australia in 1860, settling in Brisbane in 1865, where he became a leading physician. In 1872 he was responsible for the first Health Act in Queensland. He was also one of the first presidents of the Queensland Medical Society. O'Doherty died on 15 July 1905 at his home in Torwood, Brisbane, and is buried in Toowong cemetery.

Portrait of Doctor Ernest Sandford Jackson, medical practitioner born on the 18 July, 1860. Dr E. Jackson was appointed Medical Superintendent of the Brisbane Hospital in February, 1883 and was founder of the first training school for nurses in 1886 and the (Royal) Australasian College of Surgeons in Queensland. Dr. Jackson was a foundation member of the Queensland branch of the British Medical Association and the founding father of the medical school at the Queensland University, Brisbane. He died on 29 June, 1938 at St. Helen's Hospital.