Foundation stone unearths war memorial hospital’s rich heritage


On Sunday, 14 May, 1949, 3000 people gathered at Herston to witness the setting of the foundation stone of Brisbane’s first war memorial hospital.

Decades later, St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, now a 250-bed facility at Spring Hill, will celebrate its heritage and future among a small group of founding members, long-standing volunteers and supporters this Friday (13 May).

St Andrew’s General Manager Andrew Barron says the hospital’s Foundation Day ceremony is an opportunity to honour donors, volunteers and supporters, some of whom have been connected with the hospital since its inception.

“People in the 1940s and ’50s showed great determination for building a hospital in Brisbane that would best commemorate the fallen from the two world wars as well as show gratitude to all those who served to ensure a victorious ending,” Mr Barron said.

“Without the contributions of many people in the beginning, and throughout the years, the hospital would not have gotten off the ground let alone become the world-class facility it is today.”

It took nearly 10 years of fundraising, land acquisition, hard work and dedication before the hospital opened its doors to patients in 1958.

St Andrew’s has grown substantially in the past 58 years, and now treats more than 31,000 patients and performs 24,000 operations per year and employs about 1000 staff.

“We continue to be leaders in cardiac surgery with our three state-of-the-art cardiac catheter labs and Hybrid Theatre, which is equipped to perform highly complicated surgery through small incisions, resulting in fewer risks for patients and faster recovery times than conventional open heart surgery,” Mr Barron said.

“Our work in endovascular surgery and trans catheter aortic valve implantation is two other key examples of the hospital’s ability to successfully perform highly complex surgical procedures with excellent patient outcomes.

“Our orthopedic services continue to support the growing need among our aging population as well as providing for the niche area of sports injuries – we have expanded in this way with our connections and partnerships with top sporting organisations such as the Brisbane Roar.”

While the hospital soars ahead with modern technology and medical advancements it maintains a person-centered care approach and connections with the group of hardworking volunteers, known as the Auxiliary group, who helped bring the hospital into being.

Auxiliary member Ron Anderson, 94, was among the 3000-strong-crowd on that historic day when the Foundation Stone was laid.

Although unable to make this year’s ceremony, Ron shares the highlights of his 30 years of service to the Auxiliary and continues to wear the original tartan tie symbolic of the hospital’s deep Scottish heritage.

“I joined the Auxiliary because of my wife, Mavis, who passed away 10 years ago,” Ron said.

“Mavis use to help man the stall at the Chelsea Flower Show to raise money for the building of the hospital.”

After the hospital was built, Ron and his wife continued to be active members of the Auxiliary.

While he may no longer be able to undertake his previous duty of pushing the shop trolley to the wards, Ron continues help out at the shop and attend the Auxiliary’s meetings and various other activities.

“We continue to advance as a not-for-profit hospital providing person-centred care and services that reflect our values, compassion, respect, justice, working together and leading through learning,” Mr Barron said.

“Many of our founding members and volunteers, some of whom were there for the setting of the foundation stone, can feel honoured and proud that their vision and hard work for a living war memorial hospital has not only come to fruition but continues in that spirit of serving people at a time they need it most.”