GREENVALE SANATORIUM



 In 1905 the Victorian Government, under the administration of the Health Department, established the Greenvale Sanatorium for the treatment of consumptives. It was opened by the Minister of Health, the Hon. E.H.Cameron, a month later on 10 May 1905; on 11 May there were ten patients. When the Premier of Victoria visited the site of the Sanatorium in April 1905, he found that the patient accommodation and auxiliary buildings were almost completed.

The choice of location of the new sanatorium seems to have been determined at least in part by the traditional nineteenth century criterion of elevation, which provided access to the necessary fresh air and temperate climate. The description of the institution in the 1908 Parliamentary Papers notes the situation of the 300 acre property: “on the wooded uplands near Broadmeadows ... over 500 feet above sea-level.”

The Essendon Gazette description of the site prior to its opening described its position as “an ideal one, from the standpoint of beauty, cleanliness, fresh air, fair shelter, proximity to the city etc.” In terms of beauty it noted that “the locality chosen by Mr Bent [the Premier] for the Consumptive Home is one of the most charming positions for many miles around Melbourne.” It went on to a classically romantic description of the approach to the sanatorium:- of being “suddenly confronted by a large granite outcrop, looking like a natural fortress to guard the beauty spot beyond”; followed by a gentle descent through the “beautiful park-like country, with red-gum and grey-box trees.”




It might also be that the “famous Back Section” on which it was built was also appropriately isolated from the general populace which, until the introduction of modern treatments from the 1940s, treated TB sufferers somewhat like lepers, to be generally avoided. The 1908 Parliamentary report describes the rationale of this new “special hospital” at Greenvale in the contemporary treatment of consumption. The moral injunctions hint at the strict regimen which would have awaited patients at the sanatorium:- “The primary purpose of such an institution is, by means of generous and selected food, open-air life, and other forms of recuperative treatment, to develop the resistance of the body to the disease, and to arrest the progress of the disease, and to restore the patient to his normal condition. Consumption, however, is a disease that usually requires treatment for a considerable time, often for one or two years, and under the present conditions it is generally impracticable for patients to remain in an institution for such an extended time.

Further, consumption is a disease which the patient, if he desires to recover, must take a large share in his own treatment, and the conditions of the disease are such that if the patient will not help himself, other persons can assist him but little. It is within the power of the patient by very simple means to render himself largely independent of help of others (who are thus set free as wage-earners), and, even though he may have a crippled lung, be of very little burden to his friends. He may indeed become very helpful in the family group.”

The Greenvale Sanatorium was established primarily for patients in reduced circumstances - those who were not able to pay fees, and whose living conditions prevented the improvement of their health, or could lead to the infection of others. Patients were expected to contribute as much as they could afford. Patients were admitted for a month trial; if they responded well, they were retained for a longer period, generally up to three months.

Preventative measures fell exclusively to local government. Immediately after the patient was removed to the sanatorium, notice of the fact was forwarded to the municipal Council of the district where the patient lived. An officer was sent by the Council to carry out the disinfection of the rooms which had been occupied by the patient. “The abolition of such centres of infection is a matter of the highest importance, and Councils are urged to spare no effort in immediately rendering the dwelling clean and uninfective,” said the Parliamentary report.

There was also a considerable emphasis placed upon educational activities, so that patients knew how to minimise infecting other people upon their release. In the beginning, seven 'huts' or framed tents, specially designed for the treatment of patients in the early stages of the disease, were used to house up to 6 patients in each structure. The tents were built for a cost of some £80 each and consisted of a timber frame lined with canvas for the walling; the roof was extended on all sides to form a verandah. The ventilation was so designed as to prevent draughts while ensuring a plentiful supply of fresh air.

Sliding canvas shutters formed the upper part of all the walls, allowing air and sunshine to penetrate; folding canvas doors at each end of the tent also allowed ventilation, and a louvered lantern in the roof acted as an outlet. Other buildings, constructed of weatherboard, were also part of the complex; they housed the kitchen, the dining hall, the surgery and dispensary, and accommodation for the doctor and attendants.41

Ventilation features, of the type which remain on the surviving early-style timber building, were important:- “Verandahs are provided around the wards, so that it is possible to run out beds under cover from the wards, folding doors between the wards being provided to facilitate this. Air perflation has been provided for by means of the numerous doors, fanlights, and valved ventilators above and below each bed, while in the ceiling are many outlet vents.”

In 1905 photographs of the complex appeared in the Weekly Times. They show pavilion style buildings similar to that single example which remains on the site. In 1906, patient accommodation was increased with the opening of two permanent weatherboard buildings, capable of housing 18 patients each, called the Bent and Gresswell Wards. The former name was that of the current premier, the latter was that of the late Dr. D.A. Gresswell and was given in recognition of his invaluable work in fighting the disease. By 1910, the erection of more framed tents enabled the number of beds to be increased to about 90.

Between 1906-8 half of the grounds were planted with ornamental trees and shrubs, “many of which came from the State nursery, while a number were kindly supplied by Mr Guilfoyle, of the Botanical Gardens.” A vegetable and fruit garden had also been partly laid out. In 1928 a long range plan of re-afforestation was commenced by Dr Bell Ferguson, the result of which was that by 1950 the Hospital was drawing on it for its wood supply. Over the years the Sanatorium went from using its own water supply, taken from a dam constructed in the grounds, to the laying on of a water supply from Yan Yean in 1928; septic tank and sewerage was installed in 1929; and electricity was supplied from Yallourn in 1936.

Around 1929, the original patients' dining room became the concert hall, and then the craft room. In about 1933 an iron hut was relocated from Coode Island on the Yarra River to serve as a 'temporary' concert hall. (This building was probably taken from the Asylum, or the Melbourne Harbor Trust workshops, which were situated on the Coode Island wasteland at the time.) Seventeen years later it was replaced by a four-storey building housing wards and a large recreation hall.

The new boomerang shaped ward building was built as a result of the new Commonwealth funding for tuberculosis, along with other new buildings at Heathmont and Gresswell. It was designed by notable Public Works Department Chief Architect Percy Edgar Everett, and opened by the Minister for Health on 29 March 1950. The theatre had been designed to hold up to 400 people and was also to be used by the medical staff for demonstrations and lectures, as well as meetings and post-graduate teaching. At the time the building with its 'wide expanse of window space' was considered quite 'modern'; by then the 'old tents and primitive accommodation' had been demolished.

Some ten years earlier a new Administration Block had also been designed. It was constructed with expansion in mind - in order to provide for a future increase in staff the footings were laid to allow one or two storeys to be added at a later stage. Both of these buildings are in the new modern style, with flat massed elevations and features such as use of glass walls, sometimes rounded at the ends. A feature of the 1950 building is its sweeping curves, especially the elliptical chimney stack, with some contrasting flat surfaces. The fly-wire mullions on the verandahs added a strong horizontal appearance.

The 1950 ward building originally had open verandahs (encompassed with fly-wire) onto which TB patients would be wheeled out during the day. Its ends were glassed “solaria”, common in hospitals of the time, enabling the beneficial ultra-violet rays of sunlight to contribute to the treatment, especially important in the pre-antibiotic days. The solaria on the Administration Building were added later, about 1948.

There remains on the site approximately a dozen detached houses, some timber (maybe dating from the 1920s), and some brick (maybe built in the 1940s and 50s). These were considered necessary, in view of the isolation of the complex, to attract workers. They accommodated maintenance personnel, such as engineers, laundry, groundstaff etc. Also associated with the self-contained living environment which was created are the tennis court, the hall, and exotic decorative plantings of palms and eucalyptus around the grounds.

In 1950 it was considered that 'in its treatment of tuberculosis, Victoria was in the forefront of the Australian States, and compared favourably with other parts of the world'. The success achieved in the treatment of consumptives led to Greenvale Sanatorium's obsolescence. Other sanatoria that had been established near Melbourne - such as Gresswell and Heatherton - were enough to cope with the reducing numbers of patients, and Greenvale was transferred to the Hospitals and Charities Commission in February 1956.

Greenvale was turned to the accommodation of elderly people, and in July 1962 it was registered with the Commission as a special hospital for the elderly. The objectives of this 'new' institution were twofold. The first was to provide care for the elderly; the second was to establish a geriatric centre for both the study of the disabilities of aged people, enabling their treatment and rehabilitation, and the study of the social and medical problems associated with such disabilities.

Since the closure of the sanatorium the complex has been known as the Greenvale Village for the Aged, the Greenvale Geriatric Centre, the Greenvale Centre, and the Greenvale Campus of the North-West Hospital. It is now part of the newly created North Western Health Care Network. In 1998 this will move to the Broadmeadows Hospital, and the Greenvale campus will close, ending its 93 year history as a public health facility.



 *Occupents were said to still roam the old abandoned Hospital, unfortunately it was torn down a few years ago.



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