Old Bega Hospital - History
This outline is based on several sources, including a document from about 1990, Notes on the History of the Old Bega Hospital. A more extensive history of the Bega District Hospital was written by Charles Day with research by Bob Westmacott and John Rheinberger and published in three parts as part of the annual reports of the Bega District Hospital:
- Part 1: The beginning of a district hospital 1876 - 1910, with the 1987 annual report. PDF version with photos and financial and statistical tables
- Part 2: The developing years 1910 - 1956, with the 1988 annual report. PDF version with photos and financial and statistical tables
- Part 3: Towards a new hospital 1941-1957, with the 1989 annual report. PDF version with photos and financial and statistical tables.
They also produced a table of office bearers (pdf, 0.4 MB), including the matron and medical staff, for the period 1887 - 1989.
The site was initially selected as site for a hospital in 1886, following the survey of Bega in 1854 and subsequent settlement of the town. An outbreak of smallpox in 1876 initiated discussion of the need for a public hospital in the district. Some extracts from the Bega Gazette give more insight into early planning.
The first hospital buildings were constructed on the site, formerly part of the town Common, in 1888-89, using a mix of government and community funds. Over the years gardens were established and the buildings were extended and renovated until the mid 1940s, when the government and community determined to build a new hospital closer to the centre of Bega.
The old hospital ceased to be the major health facility for Bega in 1957, when a new hospital was opened. The Old Hospital then became an Agricultural College and experimental farm administered by the NSW Departments of Agriculture and Education.
In March 1985 a proposal (3MB pdf file) was put forward by the Bega Community Contact and Resource Group to renovate the Old Hospital for cultural, interest group, educational, craft and produce market uses.
A major community effort, supported by funding for the Australian Bicentenary, repaired the Hospital for its centenary in 1988. An Old Bega Hospital Committee Inc was established.
The Old Bega Hospital Reserve of 1.603 ha was reserved from sale 'for preservation of historical sites and buildings and community purposes' as Crown Reserve number R.180050 by notice in the NSW Government Gazette dated 30 March 1990, and The Old Bega Hospital Committee Inc was appointed trustee until 2 June 1994, from when individual trustees have been appointed to a Reserve Trust (now Reserve Land Manager).
The Hospital and grounds were used for a variety of community purposes including the arts, childcare, a cafe and a community radio station.
On the night of 2 May 2004 the main building of the Hospital caught fire (report in the Bega District News), severely damaging the roof, floors and windows, but leaving most of the brickwork, including the chimneys, and most of the outbuildings, intact. The cause of the fire is not clear, but it seems likely that it was a fault with either the electrical system or a heater. The building was not insured, but the Government said (Parliamentary Question, 6 May 2004) it would be there to help. On 10 November 2005 the Member for Bega, the Hon Andrew Constance, made a private members statement in the Legislative Assembly, calling on the government to provide funding to get repairs underway. In 2008, in reply to another Parliamentary Question, the Government said regular funds were not available to rebuild the Hospital, it was looking at 'alternative strategies' and it didn't intend to demolish the building.
At the time of the fire, the Hospital and grounds were being used by 42 users. A major focus of the trustees then became to clear up the damage caused by the fire, make the buildings and grounds safe, continue to manage the usable buildings for community uses, and to seek funding to replace the roof, at an estimated cost in the vicinity of $500,000. Restoration efforts continue.
The Old Bega Hospital is listed on the Australian Institute of Architects Register of significant architecture in NSW (as a model dairy farm and former district hospital, register number 4702252) and as an item of local heritage significance in Schedule 5 in the Bega Valley Local Environment Plan (item I009). More information about the history and heritage significance of the Old Bega Hospital is contained in Kaylie Beasley's proposal for a conservation management plan.
The Friends of the Old Bega Hospital support the Trust.