Over a century of care

Since 1898, St John of God Subiaco Hospital has grown from a 30-bed hospital to a large, multidisciplinary hospital with 600 beds and over 2,000 caregivers.

14 Apr 2023


Original St John od God Subiaco Hospital in black and white photo

The original hospital, around 1902.

The first Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland in 1895 to provide much needed nursing care during Western Australia’s gold boom. They moved to Subiaco after nursing from a temporary convent hospital in Adelaide Terrace.

Opening in April 1898, the single-storey cottage hospital in Subiaco was the first Catholic hospital in Western Australia. Staffed by around 10 Sisters of St John of God, the hospital had three wards – a private ward, men’s ward and female ward. Alongside the hospital were a convent and chapel, which doubled as a school room during the week.

Additions completed in 1912, 1922 and the early 1930s were major achievements for the Sisters. In 1936, the hospital had 365 beds and around 140 Sisters of St John of God and 30 lay staff working alongside 110 visiting doctors. Subiaco was touted as the largest private hospital in the southern hemisphere.

The commencement of maternity and pathology services in the 1930s led to the construction of new buildings in the 1960s. The 1960s also saw the introduction of services such as radiation therapy, coronary care and rehabilitation.

The number of Sisters and lay staff increased in line with developments. In 1965, there were 210 Sisters of St John of God, 300 nursing, laboratory and domestic staff and 65 general nursing trainees at the hospital.

In the late 1970s, the Sisters of St John of God committed to a major redevelopment of the hospital campus. Over the next 15 years, all existing buildings were progressively demolished and replaced with new ward blocks and a medical clinic.

The hospital continued to invest in facilities and services. Outreach services, particularly in the areas of drug and alcohol addiction and care for babies and young families, extended the reach of the hospital into the community.

In 1989, St John of God Subiaco Hospital joined the other eight St John of God Hospitals in Australia to form St John of God Health Care.

Sisters of St John of God continued to work alongside lay caregivers in nursing, Mission, pastoral care and management roles until the mid-2000s.

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