What does the Friendly Society Private hospital stand for?

Before modern insurance and the welfare state, friendly societies provided social services to individuals who bound themselves to help each other, present and future, to shield each other from misfortune, and to support each other in their day of need. The Friendly Society Private hospital is a not-for-profit organisation, created under these same principles. It is run for the betterment of the community and all profits are re-injected into the operations of the hospital and not distributed to any third party. This is quite unique in today’s environment of healthcare delivery.

So how did it all begin?

A brief history of The Friendlies

In 1897… The Friendly Societies’ Lodges of the Bundaberg district formed an association to deliver upon Friendly Society principles.

In 1919… From humble beginnings financed through a 10 pounds and 10 shillings loan and a 2 shillings and 6 pence levy per member, the Bundaberg Associated Friendly Societies’ Medical Institute was first registered. (Later known as the Friendly Society Medical Institute.)

In 1920-1921… The Friendly Society Pharmacy was opened in 1920 from leased premises in Bourbong Street. The following year the Institute acquired land opposite the Post Office where a dispensary/pharmacy and lodge rooms were erected and opened in 1921. The Pharmacy has operated continuously since 1921 to this day.

In 1924… Miss Agnes Novakoski transformed a Crofton Street home into the Private General Nursing St Vincent’s Hospital to meet the growing community need for hospital services.

In the 1930s… Following the depression years it was identified that there was a need for the Institute to operate a hospital for its members.

In 1946… The Bundaberg Friendly Society Medical Institute purchased St Vincent’s Hospital on Crofton Street from Miss Novakoski, establishing the Friendly Society Private Hospital. At the time it was just a small bush hospital operated from a large timber Queenslander that housed nursing quarters underneath. The yield from the vegetable garden within the grounds of the hospital was used in the patient’s daily meals.

In the early 1950’s… The Institute purchased the old bank of N.S.W. on the Corner of Quay and Barolin Streets.

In 1964… The first of several major alterations at the hospital were commenced with the construction of a new theatre, new private rooms and nurses’ quarters.

In 1970… The first expansion into office accommodation was completed with the erection of a two-storey complex in Quay Street.

In 1974 and 1978… Further wings and extensions were completed at the hospital to incorporate lift facilities, x-ray and physiotherapy departments at a cost of in excess of half a million dollars.

In 1979… The Institute erected the current six-storey office complex on the Corner of Quay and Barolin Streets at a cost of in excess of one million dollars.

In 1984… Extensions to the 36-bed Friendly Society Private Hospital complex were completed. There were approximately 50 staff members at this time.

In 1987… The Historic Friendly Society Pharmacy moved from the original small Bourbong Street store to a new location in Barolin Street under the Wide Bay Australia building.

In 1991… Due to changes to the Friendly Societies Act, a Board of Directors was elected.

In 1993… Originally known as the B.A.F.S. Private Hospital, the Friendly Society Private Hospital was re-registered under its new name. The long-awaited extensions were completed, doubling the hospital in size to 55-beds and 5200 square metres. Public tours were given.

In 1995… In 1995 the old Woongarra Shire Building in Barolin Street was purchased by the Institute and the Friendly Society Pharmacy relocoated to this large store which has been home to the pharmacy for the past 20 years.

In 1997… Construction of upper and lower levels to the latest extension on the Bingera Street side of the Friendly Society Private Hospital were completed.

In 2003… the Friendlies Afterhours Medical Service opened and started providing an afterhours GP service to the community.

In 2006… Construction and ongoing expansion continued with the theatre unit growing from three to five state of the art operating theatres.

In 2011… The hospital’s biggest infrastructure and innovation development in both size and capital was completed, with approximately $28million invested in buildings, technology and equipment. Plus, a second Friendly Society Pharmacy opened at the hospital.

In 2016… The Hospital completed works on the Medical Consulting Suites in Crofton Street. In April, the board of directors launched The Friendlies Foundation, the charitable, fundraising arm of The Friendlies, allowing the community to support The Friendlies financially with its plans for expanding patient services. In August, The Friendlies opened the relocated and expanded Day Oncology Unit. The new state-of-the-art unit increased the service in size from 6 chairs to 14 chairs and offered patients more space, comfort and a dedicated video conferencing room.

In 2017… The Friendlies will continue to grow with plans to open Unit 5, the first time all five inpatient units will have been open simultaneously, as well as a dedicated endoscopy unit and refurbishment of Theatre 3.

It is without a doubt that the history and ownership of the Friendly Society Private hospital is quite unique within the Australian healthcare landscape. The Friendlies not-for-profit status ensures continual reinvestment in all facets of the business including new technology, equipment, facility improvements and most importantly its people.