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Byron Shire
July 20, 2024

Murwillumbah Hospital celebrates 120 years

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Tweed Cottage nurses 1914 Murwillumbah. Photo supplied

A community campaign for a hospital in Murwillumbah led, in 1899, to two committees and a Board of Trustees being formed, and the selection of a 15-acre site. The hospital itself opened in May 1904 and this year it celebrates 120 years.

With a $500 government grant the community raise the remainder of the $1614 building costs to build the Tweed Cottage Hospital that opened on 20 May 1904 with a three-bed ward for males, a two-bed ward for females, a matron’s room, wardsman’s room, laundry and offices. 

A total of 44 patients were treated in its first seven months of operation, however demand grew quickly, with 224 patients treated during 1908, and a new Isolation Block was opened in 1909 according to a Potted History of Murwillumbah District Hospital by Millie Higgins.

Murwillumbah Hospital opening 1939. Photo supplied

In 1910, the hospital was renamed the Tweed District Hospital, and serviced patients from Mullumbimby to southern Gold Coast. The Hospital Auxiliary was formed in 1926 and after continued community advocacy for an extension, the new brick building, designed to accommodate 93 patients, was opened on 27 August 1939. The three-storey building was the largest in the district and included, a rarity at the time, an electric elevator. 

On 29 December 1972 the hospital was renamed Murwillumbah District Hospital (MDH) to avoid confusion with the newly opened Tweed Heads District Hospital in Tweed Heads. 

Murwillumbah nurses-quarters 1925. Photo supplied

Murwillumbah District Hospital Executive Director and Director of Nursing Tracey Lea said the hospital had a proud history and a strong connection to the community.

‘Since its opening in May 1904, hospital staff have cared for generations of patients and seen many changes in the delivery of health services and advancements in patient care,’ said the Northern NSW Local Health District press release. 

‘We are incredibly proud to celebrate this significant milestone,” Murwillumbah District Hospital Executive Director and Director of Nursing Tracey Lea

‘The hospital had a proud history and a strong connection to the community.’

Ms Lea said the hospital continues to play an important role in providing local healthcare to the community following the recent opening of the new Tweed Valley Hospital (TVH) in Cudgen. 

Murwillumbah District Hospital provides key services including emergency department, medical inpatient care, palliative care, chemotherapy, renal dialysis, Midwifery Group Practice, antenatal care and Birth Centre, low complexity day surgery services and a range of outpatient services. The hospital also continues as the dedicated location for rehabilitation services, welcoming patients from right across the Tweed Valley. 

Ms Lea thanked staff for their support and dedication to providing excellent patient care, particularly during the hospital’s recent transition to focus on day surgery at the site. 

Since 2018, the hospital has received more than $3 million in upgrades and renovations which have delivered a new satellite renal unit, improved the emergency department and medical imaging unit, and provided a new palliative care room. In the first quarter of 2024, MDH had 5,419 Emergency Department attendances, the most ever on record, and an increase of 18.4 per cent compared with the same quarter in 2023. 

An official celebration event to mark the 120th anniversary will be held in the coming months.

Murwillumbah Hospital 1956. Photo supplied

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  1. It never cease’s to amaze me how wonderful Murwillumbah Hospital is, from treating my ‘Cataracts’ to treating ‘Plantar Fascillitis’ to fixing the missus shoulder, they have done it all with grace and courtesy, the nurse’s and Dr’s are first rate and would just like to say a huge ‘Thank You’ for the 120 years of fantastic service.

  2. A great asset to Murwillumbah. I for one am glad it’s there…have been to ED in an ambulance a fair few times & an inpatient a couple more.
    It would be a much longer journey if it wasn’t. Great staff as well.
    I love the historical staff photos & medical mementos on display in the corridor.
    And I’m in awe of the master bricklayers of the times…all those curves & embellishments. In keeping with the great array of Art Deco facades throughout Murwillumbah, which adds to the character of the town. The sort of buildings not appreciated in the Joh Bjielke-Petersen era in Brisbane…so many architectural treasures bulldozed back then to make way for soulless modern architecture.


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