Thursday, 18 July 2013

Townsville 'Lying-in' Hospitals

In Queensland, in the early years of the twentieth century, women expecting a baby had a range of options open to them as to how to spend their confinement. Many women gave birth at home, often with the assistance of a midwife and sometimes a doctor would attend the birth, particularly if complications arose. Some midwives, or, maternity nurses, would live-in for a short period after the birth, and some even assisted with domestic chores, such as laundering clothes for mother and baby and cooking meals. Sometimes the midwife would stay with the woman for the duration of the labour and then make daily visits for about the next fortnight.

Many women chose to attend a private hospital for their confinement. The term ‘private hospital’ at this time can also be taken to mean maternity hospitals, and something called ‘lying-in’ hospitals. Some private hospitals were run by a doctor, who employed a nurse to manage the establishment. These catered for both surgical and medical patients as well as maternity cases.

Most lying-in hospitals at this time were run by a nurse with midwifery skills in her own private home. Before the passing of Queensland’s Health Act Amendment Act in 1911 many of these nurses lacked formal training, although many had been providing midwifery services for years. The new legislation required nurses in Queensland to be registered with the newly formed Queensland Nurses Registration Board before they could apply for proprietorship of a lying-in hospital. However, if nurses could prove that they had been practising nursing for three years prior to 1911, they were exempt from requiring formal qualifications.

Lying-in Hospitals in Townsville

Townsville had a number of private lying-in hospitals that were well patronised during the early 1900s. In 1920 alone, Townsville had seventeen registered lying-in hospitals. They were located all through the main suburbs of Townsville at the time, which included the city area, West End, South Townsville, North Ward and Hermit Park. Some of the names of the private lying-in hospitals included: Leyburn Maternity Home, Malvern House Maternity Home, Kenilworth Private Hospital, Garvald House Maternity Home, Helston Maternity Home, Southesk Private Hospital and the Ailsa Craig Maternity Hospital.
Registration form for the 'Ailsa Craig' hospital, run by Susan Mary Wells.
Additionally, at varying times between about 1907 and 1930 there were at least eight other private hospitals in Townsville that also catered for maternity cases, including ‘The Rocks’, St Monica’s, Lammermoor, Verwood, Bayview, St Anthony’s, Dr Ahearne’s and Dr Radcliffe’s.
From 1916 the state began policing its health legislation and all private hospitals, including lying-in hospitals, had to be registered on an annual basis with the local council.