RMH 170th - Then and Now
13 March 2018
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In 2018, The Royal Melbourne Hospital (RMH) celebrates a major milestone – its 170th birthday.

As Victoria’s first public hospital, the RMH has touched the lives of millions of Victorians over those 170 years, providing care and treatment for the sickest in our community.

170 years of Care, Research and Learning at The Royal Melbourne Hospital

Melbourne Health Chief Executive, Professor Christine Kilpatrick, said the milestone on 15 March is an opportunity to not only reflect on the past, but also look to the future.

“We have a very long and proud history at the RMH and in our 170 years we have achieved many ‘firsts’ that have shaped healthcare in Australia and around the world,” Christine said.

“But what is really exciting is to think about what the next 170 years will bring. We have a bold vision to be First in Care, Research and Learning and I am proud to be part of an organisation I know will continue to make a positive difference in the years to come.”

From humble beginnings on Lonsdale Street in 1848 with just 10 beds, to a world-class healthcare facility in the heart of the Melbourne Biomedical Precinct, today the RMH is recognised as an international leader in fields such as trauma, neurosciences, nephrology, oncology, cardiology, genomics and infectious diseases.

In 2016/17, the RMH Emergency Department provided urgent care to more than 74,000 people, and we performed more than 23,900 elective surgery procedures.

“The Royal Melbourne Hospital would not be the success it is today without the commitment and expertise of its very dedicated staff, our volunteers, Government, our generous donors and benefactors and the Victorian public,” Christine said.

“Our 170th birthday is an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come and remind us why we are here, and that is to provide the best possible care for our community.”

Our 170th birthday celebrations and how you can get involved:

  • Tell us your Royal Melbourne Hospital story! As part of the 170th celebrations, our community are invited to contribute to our rich history by sharing their unique stories and memories of how the RMH has touched their lives.
  • RMH Medical Voices: oral histories with our senior doctors. Lived memories provide an insight into events and activities that are not recorded in written records. The RMH is actively preserving some of these lived memories through oral history recordings with senior medical staff who were practising during the establishment and growth of our various medical specialities from the 1960s onwards.
  • Then and Now – online photographic exhibition. Be transported back in time and see some of our most treasured historical photos placed side-by-side with modern-day versions, and read about how we've transformed over the last 170 years.
  • Our patients will also be able to join in the celebrations, with a special commemorative thank you card being placed on every patient meal tray, along with an RMH 170th biscuit, on our anniversary day.

Go to www.thermh.org.au/170th

Victoria’s oldest hospital – RMH history

  • On March 15 1848, the Melbourne Hospital (as it was known then), opened its Lonsdale Street doors for the first time with two inpatients, four outpatients and 10 beds.
  • In its first year of operation, 89 patients were admitted to the Melbourne Hospital and 98 people were treated as outpatients
  • By 1935, due to overcrowding, the government granted the hospital permission to occupy a new site in Parkville. Construction commenced in 1939, and in 1942, the new hospital was ready for patients.
  • However, with war in the Pacific, the Federal Government requested that the hospital be set aside for the 4th General Hospital, United States Army. It is the only time an Australian hospital has been fully occupied by a foreign country.
  • For two years, from March 1942, the US Army occupied the hospital, treating more than 35,000 American soldiers. In December 1944, the hospital was handed back to Australian management and opened its doors and 480 beds to Victorian patients.
  • As an institution, the RMH it is older than many – including the state of Victoria which separated from NSW in 1851. Other Melbourne landmarks include: the Melbourne Cricket Ground (1853); the Parliament House of Victoria building (1856), The Melbourne Football Club (1859), the Melbourne Zoo (1862) and the Royal Exhibition Building (1880).
  • Renamed The Royal Melbourne Hospital by Royal Charter on 27 March 1935, the hospital in 2005 amalgamated with the former Mount Royal Hospital and now encompasses a second campus at Royal Park.

For more information about our history, go to www.thermh.org.au/about/our-history

Media Contact

For more information about this story, contact Communications on (03) 9342 7000 or email mh-communications@mh.org.au