History by category: Mater Mothers' Hospital

Establishing a maternity facility

In 1946, Mater developed plans to expand its healthcare services to mothers through an ambitious maternity hospital proposal. The creation of a maternity facility would enable Mater to provide care throughout every stage of life. In addition, the new facility would provide training in obstetrics for Mater’s resident medical officers and act as a ‘university’ hospital. However, financing a new maternity hospital was to be the sole responsibility of the Sisters of Mercy, and a lengthy period of fundraising commenced. The Mater Mothers’ Appeal assisted in making Mater more widely known in the community and consolidated esprit de corps among Mater people, particularly the various voluntary auxiliary committees.

The grand foundation stone ceremony, held on 16 May 1948 put the prospect of a new maternity hospital, which had been designed by Mater’s long-standing, trusted architects, Hall and Phillips, squarely before the public.    

Fundraising activities, such as bottle and rag drives, Mater fetes, chocolate wheels and fashion parades and raffles attracted a wide support base and raised £100 000 within the first three years. However, the fundraising figure fell short of the amount required to construct the hospital; and it would take 12 years for the building to be completed.

On 30 April 1952 a contract with builders was signed for Mater Mothers' Hospital. The financial situation dictated that it was a cost-plus contract, with the shell of the building to be completed first and each storey outfitted as funds became available. The brick shell slowly rose in a prominent position facing Stanley Street. However, a great deal more money was needed, so arrangements were made with the hospital's bank, ANZ, giving the project a much needed injection of additional funds.

Fundraising continued with the first Mater Home Art Union in 1954, with first prize—a two-bedroom fibro house in Surfers Paradise—valued at A£4150. Art unions, which had been successful in raising funds for the first Mater hospitals, provided valuable funds for the ongoing construction of Mater Mothers' Hospital.

By 1955, Art Unions and other fundraising activities had raised £800 000 to support the construction of Mater Mothers' Hospital. However, by this time, costs for the hospital had reached £1 650 000. Further arrangements were made with ANZ to provide additional funds.       

On 1 December 1960, fourteen years after the plans were first developed, Mater Mothers' Hospital was officially opened. The hospital offered 70 public and 70 private beds, accommodation for 100 resident staff and physiotherapy, pathology and x-ray departments. The modern facility was designed to capture breezes and to allow sweeping views of the city from the balconies. It was warmly greeted by the public and press.   

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Mater Mothers’ Hospital breaks new ground

After officially opening the year prior, on 2 February 1961 Mater Mothers' Hospital admitted its first women, and welcomed its first babies, exactly fifty years after the first patients were admitted to Mater Public Hospital. A further 2996 babies were born in the hospital's first year of operation. 

Mater Mothers’ also welcomed its first intake of midwifery students in 1961. This commitment to teaching would be further solidified in 1968 with the construction of The University of Queensland clinical and teaching research unit.

From a clinical perspective, Queensland’s first baby to survive three inter-uterine blood transfusions was born and cared for at Mater Mothers' Hospital. Baby John and his mother were Rh incompatible (when a baby's Rhesus positive blood conflicts with the mother's negative blood).

In the 1970s, Mater Mothers expanded existing services to premature babies, opening a Neonatal Special Care Unit in December 1976. The following year, the first neonatal retrieval in Queensland was instigated by Mater using then Premier of Queensland, Sir Joh Bjelke-Peterson’s, plane.

This commitment to caring for Queensland’s smallest babies was supported by the opening of the Mater Growth and Development Clinic in April 1978. Managed by Professor David Tudehope, the clinic evaluated the progress of infants born weighing less than 1500 grams and babies whose lives depended on a respirator.

The Neonatal Emergency Transport Service, NETS, was also formally inaugurated in April 1978 when twins were transported from Toowoomba.  

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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

Expanding the provision of exceptional services

In 2004, Mater announced its intention to build a new Mater Mothers' Hospital to provide the exceptional maternity services required for Queensland's growing population. Mater Adult Hospital would also be extensively refurbished as part of this project, for which the Queensland Government committed A$111 million funding. Work on the Mater Redevelopment project commenced the following year, in 2005. Three years later, the new Mater Mothers' Hospitals were officially opened and commence caring for women and their babies from Wednesday 4 June.

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Farewell Mater Children's Hospital

On 29 November 2014, after providing exceptional care to Queensland children for more than 83 years, Mater Children’s Hospital closed, and government-funded paediatric services transitioned to Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital.

Mater will continue to offer paediatric services for privately-insured patients through Mater Children’s Private Brisbane and will enhance services for young people through Queensland’s first dedicated adolescent and young adult health service. Mater Mothers’ Hospitals will continue to grow and deliver the highest standards of maternity and neonatal care.

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