Lidcombe Hospital

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Lidcombe Hospital was established in 1893 as the Rookwood Asylum for the Aged and Infirm to ease overcrowding at other State institutions. Subsequently, in 1896, the Government decided it should be developed as the main institution for the State’s aged male poor.

A salaried Medical Superintendent was appointed to the Asylum staff in 1906. By 1913, clinical departments under the supervision of honorary medical staff had been established in the fields of general medicine, general surgery, neurology, dermatology, ophthalmology and E.N.T. Surgery; in keeping with these developments the name ‘Asylum’ was replaced by the more appropriate ‘State Hospital and Home’. Shortly thereafter, the name of the district was changed from Rookwood to Lidcombe. The ensuing fifty years saw considerable expansion of the institution without much direction and it was not until the mid-1960s that decisions were taken to establish a comprehensive geriatric service, to define a region for which the Hospital would be primarily responsible and to upgrade the medical, surgical and diagnostic services by the appointment of salaried specialists in appropriate areas.

More recent developments have included the establishment of Departments of Nuclear Medicine and Clinical Neurophysiology, the opening of the head injury unit, the establishment of the renal dialysis service, the establishment of a Department of Community Services, the expansion of the psychiatry service, the commencement of the cardiac assessment and rehabilitation programme and the establishment of a vascular unit. Concurrent with these service developments, the Hospital’s involvement in undergraduate teaching has been expanded. A clinical school for medical students from the University of Sydney was established in May 1976, and student units in social work (in conjunction with the University of N.S.W.) and in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, nursing and speech therapy (in conjunction with the Cumberland College of Health Sciences) are now operating.

The Hospital’s earliest association with the University of Sydney Medical School dates back to 1964 when, for a period of about two years, additional tutorials in Clinical Surgery were organized for groups of students attached to the clinical school at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. This initial association with the University lapsed with the resignation of the hospital’s full-time Staff Surgeon, J. E. Moulton, and several years were to pass before the association was reestablished with the provision of tutorials in neurology and ophthalmology. At this time, the Hospital’s facilities were also made available for the conduct of deferred examinations in clinical medicine and clinical surgery.

These early associations were relatively informal and in February 1970, the Hospital’s then Medical Superintendent, G. R. Andrews, commenced discussions with Professors C. R. B. Blackburn, J. Loewenthal and F. R. Magarey with the specific aims of introducing the teaching of geriatrics into the undergraduate curriculum and of placing clinical teaching at Lidcombe on a more formal basis. Both these objectives were achieved. In September 1970, lectures in geriatrics were given to fifth year students during their course in Social and Preventive Medicine, and in June 1971, Senate approval was given for the recognition of Lidcombe as a Special Affiliated Teaching Hospital.

Further expansion of clinical teaching at Lidcombe took place in 1972, following a request from the Warden of the Clinical School at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to make use of the Hospital’s facilities for fourth-year students. In February 1972, tutorials in geriatrics, chronic disease and rehabilitation medicine were commenced, and in June 1972, tutorials in surgery for final-year students were also commenced.

This arrangement continued until 1975 when, with the impending entry of ‘new curriculum’ students into their clinical years, a decision was taken by the Faculty of Medicine to designate Lidcombe as a provisional teaching hospital until June 1978. Thus in 1976, all previous teaching commitments under the old curriculum were dropped and a temporary clinical school was established in May 1976 for the Hospital’s first group of fourteen ‘new curriculum’ students. Following the end of the overlap period of the old and the new curriculum students in 1978, a decision was taken to maintain the clinical school at Lidcombe, and 1982 saw the entry of its seventh group of students and the appointment of two of the hospital’s senior specialists, P. F. Thursby and G. A. Broe, to positions as Clinical Senior Lecturers.

In summary, Lidcombe has functioned for much of its existence as a hospital for chronic diseases, catering particularly for the aged and indigent. However, in contrast to many similar institutions, it also provided most of the necessary acute medical and surgical services. From this base, the Hospital has been developed into a large modern complex providing a wide range of services, and providing clinical instruction for students, including those in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sydney

Source: G. W. Carter, "Lidcombe Hospital" in Young J, Sefton A and Webb N, Centenary Book of the University of Sydney Faculty of Medicine. Sydney University Press, Sydney