Through some stories we may learn a little more about the history of our area. 

If you have a story that we may be interested in please
email us with it so we can all enjoy learning a little more about our area.

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The day our hospital
caught fire.

The Maleny hospital started out in October 1920 as a public hospital with the first medical superintendent Dr. Anderson.    In May 1921 it was converted to a general hospital with Dr. Stark as the first G.M.O.   This hospital has been the medical centre for the Sunshine Coast hinterland ever since.

One of the most respected Doctors in the history of Maleny was Dr. Tony Parer.    Dr. Parer was Maleny's only Doctor between 1934 to 1952.    During his time in Maleny, including the War years he treated patients not only from the Maleny area but Kenilworth and Caloundra areas as well.    Dr Parer was not only the community doctor but community elder.   He was instrumental in ensuring that many of the community organisations survived.

Mrs Peg Burnett said of Dr. Parer.  "If you had a family problem you would go and see Dr. Parer.   He always had a solution and knew what to do."

Peg continued, "Dr. Parer was a most generous man who not only provided medical attention to those in trouble but often provided food and clothing for those who could not afford those necessities for some reaon or another at the time.      -     (Photo right shows Dr Parer and his trusted transport.)

 

Dr. Parer was the longest serving Medical Superintendent of the Maleny hospital.    It is fitting that Dr. Parer's memory is kept alive by the naming of a park opposite the present Maleny Soldier's Memorial Hospital

Original Maleny Hospital - Bean Street

 

It is said that his presence could be felt in the wards of the old Maleny Hospital  right up until it was closed down.

Older residents who can remember the old Maleny hospital dreaded the thought of a fire in the building.    The building, old and rambling, had served the community well but had been added onto on a number of occasions, thus creating a labrynth of passageways and small rooms.

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One disaster that the hospital did not miss occurred in the early hours of New Year's Day 1963 when overnight rainfall measured nearly 200 mm.    Over 300 revelers were dancing the old year away at a New Year’s Eve Ball in Maleny’s School of Arts unaware a rapid developing rain depression was crossing the Sunshine Coast.   This storm blew part of the roof off Maleny Hospital in the early hours of New Years Day.

The Nambour Chronicle newspaper reported the roof of the 40-year-old hospital blew off at 3.00am and so began thirteen hours of anxiety for the matron O’Laherty (later Mrs Jack Ahern of Conondale).     "Rather frightening", was the matron’s description of the ‘turbulent night’.    "I realized at once what was happening when I heard the first sheet of roofing tearing off ." she said.

"The power went off with the roof.    This left the hospital’s youngest patient, a two-week-old premature baby in an unwarmed humidicrib".   "While struggling to move the hospital's other twelve patients to the only roofed ward, Matron O'Laherty and two night sisters devised a makeshift crib with blankets and hot water bottles".

As the 50 knot winds shattered windows and the cyclonic rain poured in through the damaged roof the matron and her staff moved their patients in pitch darkness to the hospital’s one new wing.     At first light, with the help of local residents the majority of patients were moved to a temporary 'hospital' in Maleny's School of Arts”.

 

Staff had often thought of the possibility of a building fire spreading before patients could be evacuated.    Luckily, this never happened to the old place, however, believe it or not, the worst predictions did occur, but not until after the move into the new building took place.

Photo left:   Maleny Soldier's Memorial Hospital
(opposite where the present hospital is now located)

The night was stillness itself.    The quiet was palpable.     It was cold.    As the first light crept across the wards some patients began to stir.    Outside the mist cushioned a soft drizzle.

Then raucous alarms shattered the calm of Maleny hospital.

Night Sister Bearnice tore to the indicator that flashed the dreaded message - 'Fire in the hospital switchboard!    She dialled "OOO" to set emergency procedures abuzz.

Already smoke was charging from the ventilators and with it an awful, choking smell.    The lights died and the emergency generator kicked in.

Immediately above the fire was the labour ward; mercifully it was empty.     In the general wards were a dozen or so patients, some old, some young, some very ill, others mobile.    Bearnice and her assistant began moving the patients to safety.      Kitchen staff were coming on duty and they rushed to help.

The quickest way to move the patients was to wheel them out, two or three to a bed.    With five or so beds under the front porch, the patients were out of danger and out of the rain.      The evacuation had taken just eleven minutes.

Meanwhile, Neil Paltridge, Laurie Benecke and other members of the Maleny Volunteer Fire Brigade were quick on the scene and attacking the fire at its source.

With the experts attending to the fire, the hospital staff were able to concentrate on soothing the concerns of the patients - including the gentleman who was in the shower when the alarm sounded!

The domestic staff decided that the fire was not going to stop the patients from having breakfast and so got busy in the kitchen.

At 9.30am, three hours after the alarm sounded, the building was declared safe and patients were moved back into the northern end of the hospital.

All this happened the day before the first anniversary of the transfer from the old to the new hospital building.    Emergency drills are taken seriously at our hospital.    The staff know the real thing can happen, at any time.

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Like the naked city there are a thousand stories in the
Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Tell us your story.....

just email those bits to  :  thegrapevine@westnet.com.au