Health Check for Fremantle Hospital

Tuesday evening saw an almost capacity crowd in council’s reception room to listen to, and question Paul Forden, Exec Director of Fiona Stanley & Fremantle Hospitals. Paul has not been in the role long, recently arriving from the UK. His focus is unapologetically on offering the community the best quality medical care delivered with professionalism and understanding. Fiona Stanley is a center of excellence in emergency care and Fremantle will focus on aged care and adult mental health. Elective services, Plastics, ENT and Gynecology will come shortly. Fremantle will also act as an overflow hospital for Fiona Stanley and Rockingham.

Many of the questions understandably related to the loss of an emergency department at Fremantle Hospital. Paul made it clear that there was no capacity to provide top class emergency care at the two hospitals and Fiona Stanley is the place for that service. Whilst it is understandable that it is best to have one destination for ambulance admissions, the community made a strong case for a facility to treat ‘walking wounded’. That is people who do not require an ambulance, but still require some form of emergency care. Local member Simone McGurk, advised the new state government is considering a series of urgent care clinics, and that Fremantle Hospital is considered a prime location if that can be arranged.

Other questions related to the Knowle. This is one of the state’s most significant heritage buildings, yet gets little attention being hidden in the Fremantle hospital complex. The State Heritage list says:

The Knowle was an important building when first erected both for the Convict Establishment and for Fremantle. It established in stone the hierarchy of the prison bureaucracy, placing the Comptroller General firmly at the head of the others in the system. The houses along The Terrace and the modest warder’s cottages confirmed the complete hierarchy. The Knowle also exhibited, in conjunction with the other prison buildings, the power of the British Empire (excerpt from State assessment documentation 2000).

Built in 1851 for Fremantle prison Comptroller Henderson the Knowle is intrinsically linked to the convict establishment, including the World Heritage listed Fremantle Prison. It gained further heritage value as Fremantle’s first hospital. You should be able to understand the shudder that went through me to hear Paul’s colleague Joel Gurr admit the Knowle had been a bit neglected, but he was sure they could give the outside a ‘lick of paint.’ Whilst I acknowledge their expertise on patient care their understanding of heritage restoration is sadly lacking.

Perhaps the Knowle is a worthy recipient for some of the State’s rolling heritage funding from the sale of the Warders Cottages?

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