A Day With the Happy Patients at Yaralla
Noble Work of Great Founder
(by E.J. Martin)
“This Hospital for Convalescents was founded by the late Thomas Walker of Yaralla, in the hope that many sufferers would be restored to health within it.”
This inscription, which may be regarded also as an epitaph, runs in gold letters round the walls of the magnificent hall at the institution which is used as a church on Sunday, and for socials, whereat nurses, household staff and patients have a dance and concert at least once a fortnight at Walker’s famous Home at Parramatta River.
The establishment is conducted on a smooth running system. There is the discipline of usage without any seeming authority or hard restrictions.
Patients, with very rare exceptions, recognise the golden principle of “playing the game”.
One of them remarked very truly: “If ever a man deserved a place in Heaven, it is Thomas Walker”. It is also the only institution of its kind about which there have been no complaints – it defies criticism.
World-famous is the Walker Hospital. Men and women of all ages, positions and condition of life have been nursed back to health by nourishing food, fresh air, peaceful surroundings and unsurpassably gentle treatment by a trained and genial staff of nurses, so as to be fit to re-engage in the struggle for life.
Thousands of young and middle-aged men, after treatment in our overcrowded hospitals, having no homes in Australia, are fit for discharge from the public hospitals but physically are unable to go to work and financially unable to sustain themselves during the period of waiting for employment.
This is where the Walker Hospital comes in as the bridge over which the stricken-down people may cross to a haven of rest and physical rejuvenation
On a commanding site, facing Ryde, on the Parramatta River, the Walker Convalescent Hospital presents the appearance of a nobleman’s mansion in a great park. Beautiful lawns, shrubberies, fine trees and choice flowers, tapering down to the water’s edge, where, at the landing-wharf, a two-storied lodge with a small tower heightens the effect of an approach to a castle.
On Tuesdays and Fridays the outgoing patients depart in charge of a nurse, in the forenoon, and in the afternoon, at 1:45, the same nurse escorts the new patients to the hospital, which defrays the fares both ways.
It may be here observed that the Walker institution is entirely self-contained and independent of outside contributions. There are no paying or partially paying patients. There are no inquiries as to a person’s ability to pay, although the accommodation and fare provided are equal, if not superior, to many private hospitals.
It assumes that the patient requires a rest which he or she cannot afford to pay for elsewhere, and the generous founder made provisions for a fund to meet all requirements in perpetuity.
Waited on Hand and Foot
On arrival, there are kindly nurses to welcome and help the feeble up the slope, and everybody is relieved of all impedimenta in the way of luggage or parcels. There is a gent with a truck to do all the carrying. So the party arrive at the beautifully furnished vestibule and administrative offices, where the matron allots them to their quarters – the men to the right wing and the women to the left, each wing covering the dining and recreation rooms.
The same line of demarcation includes the grounds – women must keep to the left and the men are in the right, for once in their lives. Only on visiting days (Wednesdays and Saturdays) are patients of both sexes and their friends have the free run of the grounds.
The patients are put on light diet until examined by Dr. Littlejohn the next morning, when he decides the fare they are to receive.
The wards are lofty, well-ventilated – windows half open is the general rule – and contain from two to four beds.
There are no dormitories; on the contrary, there are single-bedded rooms for special cases and each bed has a completely-enveloping mosquito-curtain – the buzzing insects being the only nuisance on the premises.
The cleanliness of the institution is conducted with battleship thoroughness.
Only patients capable of doing so are expected to perform light duty in addition to making their own beds.
Very few patients average more than an hour’s toil a day – a very paltry equivalent for three square meals and three intermediate refreshers of milk or tea or cocoa and bread and butter.
There is an abundance of milk and vegetables produced on the estate and the solid house and garden work is carried on by paid staff.
The patients even get their laundry-work done for nothing – except, of course, starched collars and shirts.
The Children’s Cottage
Supplementary to the great hospital for adults, erected in 1891, six years after the founder had gone to give an account of the stewardship of his wealth, there was erected in 1894 the Joanna Walker memorial – a children’s cottage hospital. This lady was a sister of Thomas Walker and, as a beneficiary under his will, she was doubtless inspired by his example to dedicate an ideal cottage hospital for children.
It is a perfect gem for little sufferers, upwards of four years, and eloquent testimony as to its splendid humane service is to be found in the happy faces of the children and their nursing guardians.
In the centre of the cottage is a tiny courtyard with a fountain in the centre.
At the entrance there is a parlour with Lilliputian chairs, tables, doll-houses and toys.
Even the carpets, cushions and table covers are fashioned in designs to please the childish eye.
Need for a Gymnasium
As a health-promoting and useful adjunct to the hospital, the establishment of a gymnasium with a section on approved surgical lines is worthy of consideration.
The writer saw, at Weymouth, England, a gymnasium of this kind, which was of considerable utility in exercising the limbs of wounded soldiers and, as a fair number of surgical cases go to Walker’s, the value of such exercise would be undeniable.
The ordinary gymnasium appliances would also be of great benefit to the medical cases who simply want building up and need some inducement to engage portion of the time to physical exercises instead of lying down, reading, or aimlessly lounging about the grounds.
The cost of construction would be comparatively small, and the expense of maintenance should be almost nil.
As far as actual recreation is concerned the billiard-room, with piano and games, together with a fine library, are ample for time-killing purposes, but regular exercise is a natural corollary of convalescent treatment, and saves men and women, especially those who have to live by manual labour, from getting soft and thereby suffering unduly when recommencing work.
Matron G.F. Moberly has a splendid war record of four years. She left in 1915 and was in charge of London hospitals and did hospital-ship duty. The lady also had important duties in India, and returned to Australia in charge of the hospital-ship Castalia.
She was presented with the Royal Red Cross (1st Class) by General Birdwood. Miss Moberly is now on leave in China and her place is being worthily filled by Sister Spring, supported by an excellent staff of nurses.
Mr. Alfred Bryant of Yaralla Chambers, Pitt Street, is, and has been for years, secretary of the hospital.
The Founder and his Daughter
Thomas Walker, the founder, was originally a Melbourne merchant, and made huge investments in property in New South Wales, including Yaralla, on a portion of which the hospital stands.
He had cherished for a considerable time before his death the erection of the hospital which will immortalise his name.
Miss Eadith Walker, the only child of the founder, dislikes publicity and, in a sense of delicacy, the writer has to refrain from dealing with her important administrative work for the hospital.
Most of her benefactions are absolutely unknown to the general public. It is sufficient to say that she has lived up to the noble example of her benevolent father.
(Ed: This article was printed in the “Truth” newspaper on Sunday, 27th April, 1924. It was discovered on the Trove internet site – http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/)