Bethesda literally means “house of mercy”. Bethesda began nearly 70 years ago with 5 shillings and a lifetime of prayer by Matron Beryl Hill.
- The story of Bethesda is a narrative of faith and dedication of many people, but of one in particular, Matron Beryl Hill. On the 1 January 1943, Matron Hill, who had recently returned from missionary service at the London Missionary Hospital in the Himalaya Mountains of India, entered into a partnership with Sister Mildred Murray for the purposes of taking over a small hospital known as St Andrews, situated in Hammersley Road in Subiaco. The aim of this partnership was to establish a Christian hospital which would cater for the spiritual, as well as the physical needs of the community. The hospital was originally a private residence and the home of the Mayor of Subiaco, Mr Chester, whose wife was a member of the Subiaco Church of Christ until her death.
- The following extract from an article published in the Daily News on 7 January 1944, highlights the principles on which the hospital was founded:
- “Said to be the first of its kind in the state, Bethesda Hospital in Subiaco combines spiritual with physical healing. Matron Beryl Hill is in charge of the hospital, and had the idea of including spiritual healing as part of the patient’s treatment. Matron Hill had no funds, but with the cooperation of Sister Murray of the Mount Margaret Native Mission (as well as interested friends) she took over St Andrews Private Hospital on 1 January 1943. Apart from ordinary members of the public who pay in the usual way, the hospital offers bed accommodation and treatment to Christian workers and missionaries who cannot afford to pay. Regular morning and evening devotions are held for those patients who wish to participate” (Daily News, 7/1/44).
- Matron Hill’s first choice of a name change from St Andrews was Bethsaida Hospital. “Beth” in the name of places in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, means “house” and Bethsaida means house of fish. Bethesda was the name finally chosen, meaning house of mercy. The name maintains its relevance today.
- At the end of 1943 it came to Matron Beryl Hill’s attention that an exceptionally large residence with “2 acres and 25 perches of land beautifully situated overlooking the Swan River at Freshwater Bay” was on the market. It was being operated as a “C” class hospital under the name of “Lucknow”. Some delays occurred in the negotiations to purchase the hospital, not to mention the final move of American Officers who were using the residence as a rest home during World War 2.
- Towards the end of 1953, Matron Hill, a member of the Subiaco Church of Christ (COC), conceived the idea of the hospital having a management committee. Her first approach was to Roy Raymond, the pastor of the Subiaco COC, resulting in an inaugural meeting by the foundation members of the Board of Management on 10 September 1943. The hospital operated under the banner of Churches of Christ in WA, and it is still to this day connected with Churches of Christ in WA.
- In 1956 a new wing, including 14 private wards, 2 air-conditioned operating theatres and an x-ray facility was opened. In 1967, a small sanctuary was added, where patients and staff could pray, with daily services being held. In 1977 Bethesda committed funds to a major building program, including the construction of a third 22-bed ward, a patient recovery room and staff facilities.
- The Cancer Foundation collaborated with Bethesda in 1983 to build Queenslea Hospice, a 5-bed unit for terminally ill cancer patients. Buildings in Victoria Avenue (purchased in 1996) were demolished in 1989 to make way for a $10 million hospital redevelopment.
- A major redevelopment program commenced in 2004 and completed in 2006 heralded a new era for the small, local community hospital, resulting in Bethesda reaffirming its position as one of the most modern and appealing hospitals in Perth.
- Bethesda Hospital today is as special as it was in when it first began. Small, sometimes called “boutique”, community-based and associated with the Church of Christ, Bethesda seeks to deliver its Mission in a framework of strong, faith-based values, and with the assistance of dedicated staff, doctors and an equally motivated Board of Directors. From humble beginnings, but with a strong sense of purpose into the future, Bethesda Hospital continues to operate and build on its Christian heritage.