Community is the heart of Fremantle Hospital -125 years on

A woman stands outside the old Fremantle Hospital which is 125 years old.
February 2, 2022

Rapid Assessment Treatment Unit (RATU) Nurse Unit Manager Pippa Paterson started at Fremantle Hospital (FH) as a student Nurse in 1980.

Pippa has been a member of staff for over 30 years and reflects on the many changes at the hospital as it approaches its 125th birthday. She identifies the common thread is the Fremantle staff, who always work together make the hospital not only a workplace but a community.

“Despite the hospital changing from once being a leading tertiary hospital with an emergency department and intensive care unit, to becoming a specialist site for elective surgery, aged care and mental health within the larger Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospital Group (FSFHG) team, the hospital has stood the test of time,” Pippa said.

“I’ve seen everything from tuberculosis isolation rooms, to now preparing for COVID positive patients, and while the hospital has certainly become more ‘high-tech’ over my time here, the priority of providing excellent patient centred-care remains the same.“

Technological advances have been particularly valuable for Pippa in her current role with RATU, an acute geriatric service which accepts emergency elderly inpatients direct to their specialist aged care ward via the Virtual Emergency Medicine (VEM) team, so they can avoid a visit to the Emergency Department.

“Advances in technology like VEM allow elderly patients to be triaged from the back of an ambulance direct to our RATU ward, fast-tracking geriatric admissions and minimising time in hospital. These kinds of developments certainly allow for an improved patient experience,” she said.

“But, it is the dedication of all the staff who always pull together through times of change, working as a team, maintaining the strong ‘community’ atmosphere through genuine care for each other and their patients, this is what I believe is basis of the hospital’s endurance, and this is why I still love to come and work here. I am hopeful this will prevail and move Fremantle into the future and all the challenges that lie ahead,”  Pippa said.

Neil Doverty, Executive Director of FSFHG said the hospital is an integral part of FSFHG but has a rich history in its own right and is an important part of the local Fremantle community.

“The hospital has treated patients through the bubonic plague, typhoid and diphtheria, pneumonic influenza, wars and world depressions,” Neil said.

Originally a two storied residence called The Knowle, it was built in 1856 by convict labour using stone quarried from the prison grounds across the road, before opening its doors as Fremantle Public Hospital in 1897.

“The Knowle is still part of the hospital complex today complete with many of the original features such as the verandah, a prison workshops staircase, metalwork and joinery,” Neil said.

Neil said the ongoing investment in Fremantle Hospital through the upgrade of eight surgical theatres and the new 40-bed mental health development will further develop the hospital’s specialist care provision over the coming years.

“We will continue to see Fremantle Hospital grow and change, but I believe the heart of the hospital will remain,” Neil said.