The original Mayo Hospital, corner of Manning and Wynter Streets, Taree. Photo courtesy of MidCoast Libraries Local History Collection.
Doctors Frank Oliver Stokes and Allen Muscio opened the Mayo Private Hospital in Taree with the first patients being treated in January 1921. It was initially an eight bed facility on the corner of Manning and Wynter Streets which is now occupied by the burger chain Hungry Jacks (2021). The first matron was Laura Nixon who, with her staff, moved from Beltana Hospital in Macquarie Street, Taree to operate the Mayo. The hospital was a brick building with a long verandah at the back.
Current “Friends of Mayo” President Anne Whatson remembers she had her tonsils out at the old Mayo. She said “the verandah doubled as patient cubicles with blinds that came down at night. During winter the cold air would seep up through the drafty floors.” Anne has been a volunteer at the Mayo for over 24 years since the hospital relocated to Kolodong in 1997. She was on the first roster and has been on it ever since.
Friends of Mayo Volunteers. Front left to right: Noelene Bromwich (Treasurer) Anne Whatson (President). Back left to right: Jan Small , Leonie Williams, Mary Stevens, Jean Leggott, Helen Mooney, Carol Batton, Lea Young and Sue Cranfield.
Anne was always interested in nursing and as a young woman was so intent on following this career that she had her nursing uniforms made (which was the practice at the time). Unfortunately her mother’s illness meant that she wasn’t able to pursue this dream. In later years however Anne learned home nursing and first aid and did this for 25 years. Home nursing was not a paid position then and her time was split between her other volunteer positions including Meals on Wheels, Wingham Show Auxiliary Committee and school canteens. She was awarded Wingham Citizen of the Year for her community commitments.
Another high-achiever is Lea Young. Lea has been a volunteer at the Mayo for the past 18 years. Her sisters, one of whom was a nurse, worked there and suggested she might enjoy volunteering at the hospital.
Lea has long volunteered her time including at a women’s refuge, as a costume creator for Taree Arts Council and performances at the Manning Entertainment Centre, working with children with autism, and a school early intervention unit for which she was awarded “NSW Grand Friend of the Year.” Always on the lookout for costumes, Lea remembers when the old Mayo Hospital was demolished she rescued the timeworn curtains to make costumes for a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar.
Bricks from the old Mayo were also saved and are now part of a heritage display in front of the hospital. Joy Davey was the Director of Nursing when the hospital relocated and she is known as the longest serving Director of Nursing after a 51 year association with the hospital.
The “Friends of Mayo” primarily fundraise through the sale of snacks, drinks, toiletries and magazines which are taken daily to patients on a trolley. For some patients this small interaction with volunteers may be the only time they get to smile or have a chat during the day.
Anne remembers one patient with whom she had developed a good rapport. They used to banter each day as she visited with the trolley. He had a black dog that would come to visit him at the hospital. When the man died Anne attended his funeral which was a large occasion. She could see a family member holding the black dog at the funeral and he was whimpering. When he saw Anne the dog went over to her and laid his paws and face on her lap. “I nearly burst into tears. I knew I made that man happy, just a little bit.”
Both women believe the rewards of volunteering are to see the patients happy and their needs taken care of which in turn brings joy to the volunteers. The fundraising efforts of Friends of Mayo have provided much needed hospital equipment including motorised wheelchairs, recliner chairs, a large donation to the construction of the new café, BBQ and outdoor furniture for patient areas.
“The contributions of the volunteers are invaluable and have made a profound impact within our hospital communities. The warmth they bring to the patients on the ward and their fundraising efforts have made facility upgrades like the Village Brew café possible” says Ben Uprichard Chief Executive Officer, Mayo Private Hospital.
COVID19 has brought a new set of challenges to the Friends of Mayo with volunteer numbers greatly reduced. If you or someone you know is considering becoming a volunteer and can spare just a few hours each month please contact Noelene on 0407 736 183 or Anne on 6553 4475.