My time working at Thursday Island and Bamaga Hospitals

by Annetta
(Gold Coast, Qld)

I completed my General Nursing Certificate at Princess Alexandra Hospital (Brisbane)in November 1986. My first job as a Registered Nurse was at Thursday Island Hospital where I worked for around 9 months and then was seconded to Bamaga Hospital for another 3 months. Thursday Island is situated in the Torres Straits and Bamaga is on the tip of the Australian mainland.
Thursday Island Hospital was situated on the point across from Prince of Wales Island and between the two islands was the main channel for ships going through the Torres Straits.
Quite often you would see large ships and ocean liners sailing through the channel from the front of the hopsital.Thursday Island had a 41 bed general ward which was for surgical, medical, sub acute patients and children and a 16 bed maternity ward. Bamaga was a 16 bed hospital.
Thursday Island had 4 doctors. One was the Medical Superintendent, one did the outer island clinics and the other 2 worked in the hospital.
I can remember one shift we watched a boat pull up onto the rocks at the front of the hospital and one of the fishermen jumped out and proceeded to walk up to the hospital. He had come to the hospital to have a large lure removed from the palm of his hand.
We also had to go out to the outer islands to medivac patients back to Thursday Island Hospital. We had access to a commercial helicopter not the you beaut rescue helicopters that are used today.
Bamaga Hospital was supposed to have 1 doctor but when I first went there to work, the previous doctor had left after having had to do an autopsy on a crocodile they thought had eaten a local who had gone to sleep on the banks of the Jardine River. AS there was not a replacement doctor due for sometime,when patients came to the Bamaga Hospital we had to telephone and speak with the Doctor on call at Thursday Island Hospital for advice and treatment. The aiprort at Bamaga did not have lights so if we needed to evacuate a patient out we had to wait until daylight hours so the Royal Flying Doctors plane could land. Another time I had to escort a patient to Thursday Island on a ferry boat. The trip took around 4 hours.

We also used to do our own sterilsing at Bamaga Hospital and the steriliser was so antiquated that it could only be used at certain times of the day or it cause a blackout in town.

It has been many years since I have been to Thursday Island and Bamaga and new hospitals have been built. It was an interesting time and a great learning opportunity both clinically and culturally. If given the opportunity to do remote and rural nursing you will meet many characters and experience things you never thought possible.

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Feb 10, 2018
my nursing stories of TI and Bamaga from 1960's NEW
by: Marnie

I was excited to read your account of nursing in TI & Bamaga. My first nursing position on graduation in 1961 from Prince Henry's program in Melbourne was also to TI.
I am currently writing a memoir of my early nursing days in Australia & NZ before moving to Canada in 1969 where I continued my nursing career specializing in perioperative nursing until 2000 - my last 15yrs were spent establishing and running a perioperative nursing program in a Vancouver College.
I have many TI stories I would be happy to share. I consider my time on this magical island one of the best in my long career in nursing.
Your stories brought back many more memories of my time in TI. My Bamaga experience was a little different than yours & rather tragic. I travelled by pearling lugger to Bamaga to escort some children suffering from "flu" back to TI for hospitalisation. Sadly two died on the journey - something that thankfully would not happen today.

Mar 30, 2013
Info NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi Annette. Interesting read thanks. I am going to apply for a position up there (Bamaga) and wanted some info on other things like cost of living; internet access; personal safety etc. My dad was the DON of TI hospital for about 17 years so you may know him as I think he was still there (just) in '86. Warren (I won't put his last name!). Anyway - if you have any relevant info I'd appreciate it.

Jan 27, 2011
My time working on Thursday Island
by: Jodie

Hey great story Annetta, I love Thursday Island, it is a very special place

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