Being close to a good hospital is something on many home buyers’ wish lists.

Luckily, those putting down roots in the upper north shore can rest easy knowing quality medical care isn’t far away. Here, we delve into the history of two local favourites – Hornsby Hospital and The San.

We’ve all certainly come to appreciate and love our local hospitals more than we ever have before during Covid-19. But how much do you really know about your local hospital, beyond knowing where to park for the ER, or to visit a friend who’s just had a new baby? You might be surprised just how many stories those old walls have to tell!

Hornsby Hospital

Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital opened on Palmerston Road Hornsby in 1933 – and it’s changed a lot over the decades! What hasn’t changed though, is just how busy this major medical hub is for the 300,000 people in the area who use its services.

Research shows the hospital sees around 40,000 people through its ER doors annually, while its maternity services provide care for 1,200 births each year. Since coronavirus, the hospital has also run a Covid-19 Clinic for locals to be tested, offered a Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Line (1800 512 348) and a lot of advice and helpful videos via its Facebook page.

On the telly

If you feel like the exterior of the hospital looks a little familiar, you may have spotted it on the small screen. Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital has actually appeared many times on popular Aussie TV shows including Sons & Daughters in the 1980s and, later on, All Saints.

Speaking of All Saints, the grand old lion statues which appeared on some of the show’s exterior footage have a lot of historical significance. They guarded the British Centre in Hyde Park during WWII, and were returned to the hospital in the 1950s. Placed outside the hospital’s maternity unit, the lions have appeared in many newborn photos! Today, the preserved pair have a new home in the hospital’s Mental Health Unit, which opened in 2013 on the site of the old maternity ward.

A new look

Despite various upgrades over the years, Hornsby Hospital’s ‘ramshackle’ design has left locals calling for a major overhaul – and a multi-million dollar makeover is in the works.

The new development is set to open in 2021 and will include a refurbished and enlarged emergency department, expanded outpatient services, a bigger and more modern community health services centre and even a helipad.

The San

The other major hospital in the Ku-ring-gai area is The Sydney Adventist Hospital on Fox Valley Road in Wahroonga. It has 700 beds, making it the largest private, not-for-profit hospital in NSW. It’s fondly known as ‘The San’ because it was originally named the ‘Sydney Sanitarium’, and the shortened nickname stuck.

The San is even older than Hornsby Hospital, and was originally opened back in 1903 by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It’s quite incredible to think of how much history the hospital has seen: this establishment has cared for patients through two world wars, the Great Depression and the Spanish Flu pandemic a century ago. The San has also been poised to help the community during Covid-19, and has treated a number of coronavirus patients.

For a closer peek at hospital history, pay a visit to The San’s Museum, ‘Bethel’, which was built in 1915 as the Maternity Labour and Delivery cottage. It remains the oldest building on the estate and is full of photos and archival material, surgical instruments, old nurses uniforms and much more. Don’t forget to take a moment to enjoy the Nurses’ Memorial Fountain just outside the Museum while you’re there.

Other points of interest

Many Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian – and that’s always been reflected in the hospital’s menus. While patients can get a small amount of meat at lunch or dinner, vegetarian meals are the mainstay. All food available to visitors at the hospital’s café and snack bar are vegetarian, too – you can even grab a veggo recipe or two from the hospital’s website!

Did you know outreach work in third world countries has been a cornerstone of The San’s history? Its Open Heart International Program launched in 1986 and has since treated over 7,350 disadvantaged patients. Closer to home, the hospital runs a popular volunteering program – currently closed due to Covid-19 – but it’s hoped it will open again in time.

Also a leading medical centre

Like Hornsby Hospital, The San has also undergone an extensive multi-million development in recent years, which introduced new maternity, women’s health and children’s health units. It also launched an integrated cancer centre, healing garden and provided capacity for an extra 200 beds and 12 operating theatres.

The hospital continued its tradition of naming the building and its wards after key figures in its 117-year history – and has long invited its staff to make suggestions. The hospital’s 12-story LW Clark Tower was named in honour of CEO Dr Leon Clark, who has been instrumental in the growth of the hospital and its reputation.

Level Six was named after Rita Rowe, who served as matron for over 20 years between 1953-73. Level Eight was named after Dr Charles Sharpe OAM, who established The San’s Nepal Plastic Surgery outreach program in 1994.

And finally,

You can help our local hospitals in many ways – one of which is by making a donation.

Donate to Hornsby Hospital through the North Foundation

Donate to The San through the San Foundation

We hope you’ve enjoyed this mini tour of our much-loved local hospitals, two iconic establishments that have served the local community for close to a century or more. Please do get in touch if you have more questions about our thriving local area – we’d love to help.

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