Moruya and District Historical Society continues its examination of the town's pioneer health system. One matron supplemented her income by running some livestock around the hospital, paying the committee £3 a year for grazing rights.
Rule 53. She shall see that every newly admitted inmate has a warm bath before being sent to the ward ... She shall cause the clothes of the patients to be washed and cleansed as soon as they are taken off.Cottage Hospital rules
Mrs Ellen Hampton
In June 1890, before the building of the cottage hospital was completed, Mrs Ellen Hampton was offered the position of caretaker in return for the use of certain rooms and a nominal salary of one shilling per week. When the hospital was completed she was offered the position of matron at a salary of ten shillings a week plus an account at a local store for provisions not exceeding seven shillings.
She insisted the seven shillings be in cash and went on the payroll from November 1, 1890. The following January it was agreed she should be paid £1 per week when there was a patient and ten shillings if there were no patients. She was also to receive "fire and light". She had reason to complain about the firewood saying that the two-feet lengths provided were too long to fit in the stove. The quote for shorter lengths was too high and the committee had the wood supplied in eight feet lengths.
It is not known how she got the wood cut to manageable lengths. She married James Cummings in 1893 and resigned.
Mrs Mary Connors
There were 40 applicants to take her place but Mrs Mary Connors of Moruya was appointed. Mary was Mary Dunn, born in Ireland, married to Richard Connors in 1852. They had two children in Ireland before coming to Australia where they had five more in the Braidwood area. They eventually came to Bingie where they settled, having three more children. Richard died in 1873 leaving Mary with several small children, the youngest only three. She apparently did some nursing, possibly acting as a midwife.
She was appointed as the second matron of the hospital in 1893. In 1896 she was given permission to have her daughter Elizabeth stay with her at the hospital. Elizabeth married George Constable a few months later and Mary asked that the couple be allowed to stay with her at the hospital. The committee refused and Mary resigned. She then lived with Elizabeth and George at Gundary and later at the old Gundary Hotel where she died in 1913.
Rule 50. The Matron shall be responsible for the nursing and attendance of the inmates, the general control of the domestic economy of the institution - she shall take and execute instruction touching the medical care of the inmates from the Medical Officer, and shall furnish information to the Medical Officer and Visiting Committee, within their respective spheres of duty. She shall be answerable to the General Committee alone.Cottage Hospital rules
When Mrs Connors resigned the position was not advertised and local lady Elizabeth Eales was appointed as the third matron. Elizabeth was a true local as she was born at Kiora in 1848. She married John Aitkin Eales in 1878 in Moruya and had a daughter Harriett. She was engaged on £50 per annum in 1896. She had no formal nursing qualifications.
In 1898 there was a special meeting to consider what could be done about a patient named William Walton who was considered insane and dangerous. Matron Eales, who had no assistance, had to look after him for five days after his arrival by Kilkenny's coach from Tin Pot. He was undressed and put to bed. He messed the bed and refused to use the chamber pot. He refused to eat and was found in the middle of the night, sitting on the bed naked. Matron Eales told the doctor she could not manage him.
It was recommended that he be removed to the lockup to await the first steamer to Sydney. Sergeant Maguire took him to the Moruya Police cell where he died the next day from an epileptic fit.
In 1899 Rev James Graham Love made a charge that the death of his son Claude Graham Love resulted from unskilled nursing at the hospital. Dr Quilter gave his report and the committee decided to ignore the charge although a qualified nurse, Nurse Barlow, was engaged for one week's work, perhaps to give some guidance in nursing standards. Love did not let it rest there and wrote to the Principal Under Secretary of the Colonial Secretary complaining about the hospital's management.
Dr Quilter was again called on to make a report. The department was apparently satisfied. Matron Eales received some help in 1900 when a patient named Kate McIntosh required day and night attendance.
The matron asked that an assistant be hired. Kate's mother was hired to come in and help. In 1901 John Britten complained about the treatment that his daughter had received at the hospital.
By this time the hospital was treating between 30 and 40 patients per year so the matron's workload was increasing rapidly and then in 1901 the Colonial Secretary laid down the rule that matrons must be formally qualified nurses. Matron Eales resigned but a lengthy advertising campaign failed to find a replacement. The committee wanted someone with qualification plus a child to act as a runner of messages.
The committee offered Matron Eales 26 shillings a week to stay on for three months with daughter Harriett acting as runner. The position was again advertised but got no replies and the Colonial Secretary agreed that Matron Eales could stay on. She was still there in 1907 assisted by her daughter. By this time her husband had died of a heart attack. She supplemented her income by running some livestock around the hospital, paying the committee £3 a year for grazing rights.
Not all hospital records are available, but by 1912 the matron was Miss M.A. Ahearn from Melbourne, assisted by a full-time nurse.
In the seven years from 1935 to 1942 there were 11 matrons. This may have something to do with the fact that Arthur Preddey was the Hospital Secretary during this time. He regarded himself as a "man of action" and was constantly at loggerheads with the matrons, who found him extremely difficult to get on with.
Matron Hayes was matron in 1935. Preddey wrote to her to remind her that she was a servant of the Board and so must obey all the instructions of the President and House Committee. As a result she resigned but cooled down and retracted her resignation but did not return to duty.
Matron Bohan was in charge from April 1936 to January 1938. In August 1936 the cook, described as incompetent, was sacked and the matron had to take over the kitchen duties as well as her own, until a replacement could be found. In September 1936 the matron recorded in her day book that the Secretary was constantly interfering in hospital duties. In November the same year she recorded that he was tormenting her with petty complaints and constant interference in ward duties and methods.
In July 1937 there was a quarrel over hospital sheets. Mr Preddey had arrived at the hospital to remove a body for burial. He had wrapped it in a hospital sheet and taken it away. The same month he tried to do it again. The matron complained that if this continued the hospital would soon have no sheets.
Preddey returned the next morning and told the matron the sheets were the hospital property and it was no business of the matron's what happened to them. Further battles continued. Matron was told to be less strict with the staff and allow the cooks to start at 8am. By July 1937 the matron was in constant conflict with the Secretary.
Two nurses who had been running to Preddey with "incorrect impressions" left and the matron and night sister had to carry on for three days. There were arguments over the matron's holiday entitlements and uniform allowance. On the day she left the hospital in January 1938 she was paid the disputed payments but Preddey stopped the cheque. Eventually Charles Moffitt, the president, cashed the cheque and paid the matron.
Matron Murray succeeded Matron Bohan. The Secretary wrote to her in September 1938 reminding her that she was responsible for ridding the hospital of rats. In March 1939 she was asked to resign after she wrote to the board expressing her dissatisfaction with her job.
From then until 1942 there was a procession of matrons; Matron Mitchell, Matron Gannon, Matron Rita Dovey, Matron Noland, Matron O'Connell, Matron Moore, Matron Tinney, Matron Jenkins. Matron Cox and Matron Bryant Smith followed in 1943 but joined the Army Nursing Service.
These trained nurses were often called upon to do non-nursing duties covering for cooks, cleaners and laundry women who were also in short supply.
Matron Irene Harris was the matron around 1950 when the new nurses' homes was built.
Beatrice Bulgin, was appointed matron in August 1957. Matron Bulgin was originally from Fremantle, Western Australia. She had a distinguished career in the Army for three years. Around 1952 she joined the nursing staff at Moruya Hospital and served under Matron Harris before becoming matron herself. In July 1962 Miss Bulgin and Miss Myrtle Milne left Moruya by car to travel to Melbourne for a wedding. The car crossed to the wrong side of the road near Gundagai and collided with a semi trailer. Both ladies were killed instantly.
References: Moruya Hospital Centenary booklet. Moruya Advertiser, July 18, 1962.