History of St John of God Ballarat - 1970s - Overcoming the downturn

After a 20% decline in admissions in the first 3 years of the decade, the Advisory Board had to act. Their actions made sure the hospital continued to grow for years to come

17 May 2018

SJOG Ballarat in 1970

The first hurdle

One of the Advisory Board’s earliest challenges confronted all private hospitals in Australia. Medibank – a new federal government health scheme – was announced in 1973. Medical insurance fees for a private bed in a public hospital were to be cheaper than for one in a private hospital.

Additional health insurance costs for a bed in a private hospital proved to be prohibitive for many people, who abandoned private health insurance.

Innovate in times of trouble

Rather than cutting back on services, the Advisory Board decided to introduce two significant and innovative additions.

St John of God Ballarat Hospital became one of the first private hospitals in Victoria to establish a Pharmacy Department run by a staff pharmacist, and the first to establish a Nuclear Medicine Department.

A decade earlier, the Hospitals and Charities Commission had given permission to St John of God Ballarat Hospital to establish a Pharmacy Department, although the final decision rested with the Pharmacy Board.

The Medical Act 1958 (Part III) prohibited a private hospital ‘to carry on business as a chemist and druggist’, so the Pharmacy Board could not at that stage approve the request. Late in 1974, a new pharmacy act was passed in Victorian Parliament.

The Pharmacists Act 1974 gave the Pharmacy Board power to approve the establishment of pharmacies or pharmacy departments in public and private hospitals as long as the pharmacist was a hospital employee.

The new regulations associated with the Act were eventually gazetted in 1976.9 So, in 1976, and under the direction of pharmacist Bill Ross, St John of God Ballarat Hospital became one of the first private hospitals to be approved by the board to have a pharmacy department.

Establishment of a Nuclear Medicine Department

Another significant milestone in 1976 was the opening of the Nuclear Medicine Department on 7 October.

This was one of the first such departments in Victoria, and the first outside Melbourne. Intensive research and a feasibility study in 1975 preceded the decision.

‘It was recognised that some risk was involved due to the high cost of the equipment and its advanced technology.

However, we have been able to assemble a highly trained and competent team of persons.’ The equipment cost more than $500,000.

What's next?

Demand for the hospital's services soar and more space is needed for expansion.