On 18 July 1937, the King George V Memorial Bush Nursing Hospital opened to great fanfare on the current site in Main Street Mornington. It was named in memory of the monarch who had died the previous year. The original building, affectionately known as ‘The Bush’, housed eight beds in single, two and three bed wards, a nursery and labour room and an operating theatre. As part of the Australian Bush Nursing Association, The Bush was a self-funded, not for profit hospital, incorporating some of the most innovative hospital design features available at that time.
Born out of The Great Depression, the hospital not only survived the economic hardship of those years, but also rapidly expanded under the enforced regulations of the Second World War. The hospital grew with Mornington’s booming post-war population explosion, which continued well into the 1970s.
In 1980, the Andrew Kerr Memorial Children’s Home, on the corner of Tanti Avenue and Barkly Street, was purchased to be developed as an aged care facility. With the incorporation of the hospital and a change of name to the Mornington Bush Nursing Hospital in 1986, it was decided that the Andrew Kerr Frail and Aged Care Complex should be a separate entity and absolute ownership was transferred to the new complex.
Bush nursing hospitals continued to thrive throughout Victoria, and play a vital role in the delivery of health services, until the 1990s when the political and economic landscape changed. Health insurance rates plummeted to 28%, small bush nursing hospitals ceased to be viable and closed their doors.
Those changes led the Boards of Management of the Hastings and District Bush Nursing Hospital and Mornington Bush Nursing Hospital to take a critical decision to amalgamate. From that far reaching decision came the name change of the hospital to The Bays Hospital in 1997.
Many bush nursing hospitals have closed over the past decade. Economic rationalism and the highly competitive, corporate private hospital environment has left The Bays Hospital as one of the few surviving bush nursing hospitals in Australia, still providing a full range of medical, surgical and obstetric services to its local population. Strategic management and community loyalty have however ensured The Bays continuing presence as a Mornington Peninsula icon with an individual approach to healthcare.
Over the past 80 years, the hospital has grown and altered to meet the changing needs of the community it serves. In the past year the hospital has admitted 11,000 patients, performed nearly 10,000 surgical procedures and delivered over 500 babies. The hospital employs around 370 full-time, part-time and casual staff.
With each passing year, the hospital sees the growth in our region. The opening of our minor trauma, day infusion service and expanded facilities for maternity in 2016, is just the beginning of a period of redevelopment and expansion that will continue for some time.
The Bays has an ambitious and exciting agenda for the decade ahead – in many respects, the work we do over the next 12 months will build the foundations for the hospital’s future sustainability, prosperity and leadership in healthcare on the Peninsula.
Ref: Abeyaratne, Hilary,
The Bush: The Story of the Mornington Bush Nursing Hospital
Hyland House Publishing, 1993