History of St John of God Ballarat - 1960s - Expanding of hospital departments through orthopaedics

At the same time as the establishment of the School of Nursing, the simultaneous opening of the departments of orthopaedics, pathology and radiology put the hospital on the map.

27 Apr 2018

1960s Orthopaedics The hospital was on the map

By the 1960s the orthopaedics, pathology and radiology departments generated income, provided important services and attracted other specialists to the hospital.

John Jens spearheaded the hospital’s transformation to a place of importance in Victoria’s medical landscape.

With a Master’s Degree in Surgery in 1944, he joined Prince Henry’s Hospital and was in charge of the orthopaedics from 1947.

He was a perfect match for the St John of God Ballarat Hospital’s values because of his ‘deep, unobtrusive but quite evident Catholic faith’.

The flagship department

Orthopaedics quickly became the hospital’s medical flagship. Over the four years from 1963, the Orthopaedic Department expanded from 30 to 80 inpatient beds.

Other distinguished surgeons and medical practitioners followed Dr Jens'.

Without them, the Sisters’ mission in health care in Ballarat would not have been as successful, as Sister Martha Forde (Provincial) explained in 1981: “We are a community of nursing Sisters and our work would be inadequate without the skill and leadership of the medical profession … to them we owe the high standard of medical care without which our hospital could not maintain the trust of the people we serve. They are outstanding in their profession and in their observance of the Christian ethic and the sanctity of human life in all circumstances. Without that mutual trust and moral accord, the Sisters of St John of God would not care to continue in the provision of health services.”

Growing leadership

The hospital's leadership team grew:

  • Surgeon Jim Pryor arrived in 1959. From then he taught at the School of Nursing until it closed in 1990. As Director of Medical Services, he provided great leadership to the whole hospital from 1979 until his retirement in 1995.
  • Dr David Morton, consultant physician at both Ballarat Base Hospital and St John of God Ballarat Hospital, was founding Director of the Coronary Care Unit in 1969. A room on the fourth floor was converted to a two-bed unit, and in 1970 a second Coronary Care machine was donated by the Ballarat Lions Club. Dr Morton lectured at the School of Nursing from 1958 to 1990, and was Chairman of the Advisory Board.
  • Jock Hill, a general surgeon in Ballarat from 1955, returned in 1970 as an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist, and pioneered the first balance-testing machine in Australia.

What’s next in history series?

The establishment of pathology and radiology departments.