MID - Midwifery Department


As can be seen from the hospital's original name, the Melbourne Lying-in Hospital and Infirmary for the Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children, the hospital offered care to two categories of patients - lying-in and infirmary - the former being for obstetric or midwifery patients and the latter those with surgical or medical problems. Although in the early days Honorary Physicians treated both classes of patients and patients were accommodated in different wards, separate case books were kept for each group.

No records survive for child patients and they were probably only seen as outpatients.

In the face of public attack over the high death rate among midwifery patients in 1875, allegedly due to the attachment of the Hospital to the Infirmary, Dr Martin countered that the "Hospital and Infirmary were totally distinct and had a distinct staff of nurses in order to avoid any risk." Doctors moving between the wards was not yet seen as a risk.

Overcrowding and increased infection rates through the 1870s and 1880s led to the opening of a completely new midwifery wing in 1888 - the Genevieve Ward Wing, named for the American actress whose performance of "Antigone" raised a great deal of money for the project.

Midwifery and Infirmary departments were truly separated in 1888. The Annual Report of June that year reports that "On the occupation of the new wing, the Midwifery and Infirmary Departments will be kept quite separate. The Committee (of Management) have therefore appointed Dr Eugene Anderson, Resident Medical Officer for the Infirmary and Outdoor (outpatients) Departments and Dr R H Fetherston Resident Medical Officer for the Midwifery Department."

Also that year the Honorary Physicians were increased from four to eight, four in each department. The initial appointments in the Midwifery Department were all new honorary appoinments: Felix Meyer, M U O'Sullivan, J W Dunbar Hooper and G Rothwell Adam. The four original honoraries elected to remain in the Infirmary Department: G H Fetherston, Thomas Rowan, W Balls-Headley and S J Burke.

The term “Lying-in Hospital” dropped out of use from about 1882, being replaced within the hospital at least by “Midwifery Department”. This seems to coincide with the appointment of Dr Felix Meyer as Resident Medical Officer. In 1888 the hospital’s name was changed to The Women’s Hospital and Infirmary for Diseases of Women.

Records generated by the “Lying-in Hospital” have been attributed to the “Midwifery Department” and those by the “Infirmary” to “Infirmary Department”.

Published by the The Royal Women's Hospital Archives Department, November 2006
Listed by Robyn Waymouth
HTML edition Robyn Waymouth
Updated 28 November 2006

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