Book remembers Hospital as heart of the community

Spurred on by the affection shown at the Open Day to farewell Kiama Hospital, a group of people involved with the Hospital during its heyday have put together a book to preserve the story for future generations.

Margaret Raison, Dot Hall, Pat Smylie, Margaret Childs, Marj Fretwell, Gerry McInerny and Lorraine Ettingshausen formed a committee, and in a remarkably short period have compiled a social history.

Co-operation and assistance from former Kiama District Hospital staff, the general community and associated services has resulted in a wealth of information regarding the hospital including nursing, medical, domestic and ancillary staff, Hospital directors, the Kiama Ambulance, Voluntary Home Nursing Service, Kiama Hospital Auxiliary, service clubs and the community effort to avert its closure in 1992.

Lorraine Ettingshausen worked as a registered nurse at the Hospital from 1965-83.

“Margaret Raisen rang me up the day after they demolished the hospital and said we have to write something down or people will forget about it,” she says.

“We are presenting it as our recollections, not a great historical record, so that in 20 years time people will know how important it was.”

Lorraine Ettingshausen

Mrs Ettingshausen has contributed some articles on her time in the operating theatres, but says the real heart of the Hospital was the maternity ward, Birralee, built in 1951.

“Some of the nurses who worked in Birralee delivered two generations of babies.

“Being a Birralee baby was quite an an event. In collecting all of the stories for the book, it is one thing that has really resonated with people in the community. It is like they are in a club. Some call it The Birthplace of Champions.”

The nickname possibly springs from rugby league legend Mick Cronin being the first baby born there.

While Mrs Ettingshausen trained at Bulli, she says Kiama had a great reputation for training enrolled nurses, which attracted women from further afield who mostly have never left.

“I loved working there,” she says. “It was a real family affair, with lots of people working there for decades.”

Council helped with printing costs for the 500 copies.

Details: Book launch Saturday 25 November, Kiama Library, 2.30pm. RSVP for catering 4232 2511. Books will then be available for $20 from the Visitors Centre and Kiama Medical Centre

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