1981 - 2000

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Mater Children’s Hospital expands to meet growing demands

On 15 October 1981, Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a special guest visitor to Mater. Her pastoral visit was a highlight of the Golden Jubilee for Mater Children’s Hospital. Since opening fifty years earlier in 1931, Mater Children’s Hospital had become an integral to the paediatric healthcare landscape in Queensland.  

During the 1980s, specialist clinics at Mater Children’s Hospital became increasingly important; and clinic numbers increased from 25 to 42 between 1977 and 1980. These clinics covered areas including diabetes, cleft palate and cranio-facial conditions, and cystic fibrosis. In 1984, Sister Marie Fitzgerald’s Spina Bifida Clinic (the School Function Clinic), and a respiratory laboratory to help address Brisbane’s high rates of asthma in children, also opened. Three years later in 1987, Queensland's first Paediatric Sleep Unit was established at the hospital. 

To support this increase in services, facilities gradually began expanding. A new McAuley wing with an infants’ ward, and The University of Queensland Department of Child Health Officers were opened. The Mater School was also constructed by the Queensland Government on land donated by the Sisters of Mercy.

The expansion of services marked Mater Children’s Hospital’s development as a large tertiary-level paediatric facility. By 1990, the emergency department was often the busiest in Queensland.

As an extension of support for families with children being cared for at the hospital, Ronald McDonald House opened on Allen Street in 1990.

Two years later, in 1992, Mater came under pressure to move Mater Children’s Hospital to Queen Elizabeth II Hospital at Mt Gravatt. In a response to the State Government, the Sisters of Mercy stated the hospital must not only remain with the Mater family at South Brisbane, but that the state should support its redevelopment.

In 1998, Queensland's first comprehensive Paediatric Epilepsy Centre was opened at Mater Children's Hospital.

The same year, on 9 March 1998 Mater opened Australia’s first private paediatric facility—Mater Children's Private Hospital. The new 25 bed hospital, based on a seaside theme, was bright and cheerful, and each patient's room had its own computer with internet access.   

In 1999, Australia's first formal study into pet therapy for children in hospital commenced at Mater Children’s Hospital.

Tags: Mater Children’s Hospital, Mater Children's Private Hospital

New Mater Adult Hospital opens

On 12 December 1981, the new Mater Adult Hospital, built entirely with $34 million in government funding, was officially opened. Then Premier of Queensland, The Hon. Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen spoke at the opening along with Mater Public Hospitals Senior Administrator, Sr Angela Mary Doyle RSM, and Deputy Premier and Treasurer, The Hon. Dr Llewellyn Edwards. 

The original Mater Adult Hospital was renamed the ‘Whitty Building’ in honour of Mother Mary Vincent Whitty.

Tags: Mater Adult Hospital

Establishment of the Mater Health Services Board

In 1987, Mater Health Services Governing Board, empowered to develop policy and make decisions for the hospitals, replaced the Advisory Board. In response to the changing roles of the Sisters, and to develop succession planning, the first 'lay' Chief Executive Officer, Mr Pat McGuire, was appointed.

The beginning of Mater Research

In 1982, the John P Kelly Research Foundation was established to encourage research within Mater.

In July 1998, following years of planning to establish a first class research facility on the Mater campus, a world-wide search was launched for a leading scientist to direct Mater Medical Research Institute, culminating in the appointment of its first director, Professor Derek Hart. His focus was on dendritic cells—specialised white blood cells that play a critical role in initiating immune response. Effective cancer immunotherapy through manipulation of stem cells became a central goal for Mater Medical Research Institute.

On 4 March 1999, Mater Medical Research Institute was officially opened by the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency Sir William Deane and blessed by the Archbishop of Brisbane, The Most Reverend John Bathersby, DD. 

Tags: Mater Research

A new Mater Private Hospital

In 1988, plans for a new Mater Private Hospital were announced, as continual work was necessary to keep the original Mater Private Hospital building operational. The roof was leaking, more ensuite bathrooms were required and the hospital did not have an adequate isolation area.

While these plans were underway, the Mater Private Priority Emergency Centre—the first in any Queensland private hospital—was opened on 16 September 1989.

On 7 February 1993, five years after plans for its construction were announced, Mater Private Hospital and the adjoining Mater Medical Centre opened on Vulture Street. The building was designed by Brisbane architects Peddle Thorp and constructed by Baulderstone Hornibrook.    

Going above and beyond

Always committed to meeting unmet need, Mater went against public and government sentiment to commence provision of social and medical services for HIV/AIDS patients in 1986.

Two years later, in 1988, Mater was put on the world stage as the official hospital for World Expo 88.  

In 1989, Sr Angela Mary RSM was named Queenslander of the Year in recognition of her significant contribution to Queensland's healthcare landscape. Sister Angela Mary served as Administrator of the Mater hospitals for 22 years, before becoming the Executive Director of the Mater Trust from 1993 to 1997, and serving on the Board until 2003.

In 1991, the provision of patient care was extended with the establishment of the Mater Volunteers Service. Sr Pamela Barker was appointed as Mater’s first Volunteer Coordinator. The service would grow to become Queensland’s largest hospital volunteer service program.

Launching Mater Foundation

Mater Hospitals’ Trust (now called Mater Foundation) was launched on 14 April 1989 to raise community support to fund research projects, capital works and medical and research equipment. Mater Hospitals’ Trust was formed under the stewardship of Sister Angela Mary to ensure the continued success of Mater’s fundraising efforts (Sister Angela Mary would also serve as Executive Director between 1993 and 1997). The Mater Special Events Committee was also established that year by Betty McGrath, a long term Mater supporter.

Mater Mothers’ Hospital continues to expand

On 14 April 1991, Mater Mothers' Hospital New Life Centre opened. The centre allowed the hospital to better cope with the increased number of patients referred from all over northern New South Wales and Queensland. The extensions provided new operating theatres, labour wards and a birthing centre where patients could be attended by midwives and new intensive and special care nurseries.

The following year, redevelopment of Mater Mothers' Private Hospital was completed, providing more modern facilities for mothers and their babies.

On 3 July 1992, Mater Mothers' Hospital delivered Australia's smallest surviving baby, Jonathon Heeley, weighing just 374 grams. Jonathon became affectionately known as 'the coke can kid' and has grown up to be a healthy teenager.

Three years later, in 1995, Mater Mothers' Centre for Mater Fetal Medicine opened. Maternal fetal medicine is the branch of obstetrics that focuses on the medical and surgical management of high-risk pregnancies. The centre now performs more than 10 000 scans per year, and accepts tertiary referrals from all over Queensland and northern New South Wales.

In 1996, the Queensland Cord Blood Bank at Mater opened. Cord blood banking is the ultimate form of medical recycling. Blood from the umbilical cord and placenta is collected from consenting mothers following delivery and is then processed, tested and cryopreserved to be accessed for patients worldwide requiring haematopoietic stem cell transplant. 

Tags: Mater Mothers' Hospital, Mater Mothers' Private Brisbane

New services

The provision of new services wasn’t just contained within Mater Mothers’ Hospital. On 30 November 1988, the Mater Centre of the Queensland Radium Institute was opened by The Hon. Leisha Harvey, MLA, Minister for Health. A day care oncology centre for radiation therapy and chemotherapy opened in the former Mater Adult Hospital building (now the Whitty Building) four years later. 

The Whitty Building also welcomed the Queensland Diabetes Centre at Mater, in September 1998, which was officially opened by President of Ireland Mary McAleese.   

Mater expands beyond 'Mater Hill'

During the 1990s, Queensland Health adopted the concept of collocating private hospitals with public healthcare facilities on government sites. This policy offered Mater an opportunity to establish a hospital away from the South Brisbane site. During 1999, construction began on the seventh hospital in Mater's family—Mater Private Hospital Redland.

Twelve months later, in 2000, Mater Private Hospital Redland was blessed by the Most Reverend John Bathersby, DD, Archbishop of Brisbane and officially opened by His Excellency Major-General Peter Arnison, AC, Governor of Queensland. The 60-bed private hospital provides medical, surgical and obstetric services to the ever growing population of Redland Bay.

Tags: Mater Private Hospital Redland

Mater Health Services would like to acknowledge Helen Gregory, author of Expressions of Mercy. Mater has used information, as appropriate, from this publication to support the creation of this website.