The hospital’s modest beginnings in 1878, two years after settlement, were not unlike those in Townsville 12 years earlier - just a few small rooms on the Esplanade between Shield and Aplin Streets. Nonetheless, Cairns citizens must have been glad to have had any kind of hospital for, until then, the nearest was a sea-voyage away at Port Douglas.
Within six years this humble building was replaced by something larger constructed a few blocks further north, on the site which was to become the hospital’s permanent home. While the appealing views of the foreshore and waters of Trinity Bay were doubtless considered to be aesthetically stimulating, the hospital’s proximity to mangrove and paperbark swamps was far from health-giving. Perhaps this gave impetus to the research of medical officer Edward Koch into the causes and treatment of tropical fevers. His name lives on in the Edward Koch Foundation, closely associated with JCU’s Cairns campus. Koch rightly made the connection between the fevers and the mosquitoes of the surrounding swamps, even developing an effective quinine-based medicine. Grateful citizens erected a memorial to him on the corner of Abbott and Spence Streets, in 1903, moving it to Anzac Memorial Park in the 1970s. Unlike Koch’s memorial, the hospital stayed put.
|Cairns District Hospital in the 1930s, NQ Photographic Collection ID 1609, Wilson Album|
Story by Miniata