The Sydney Adventist Hospital

THAT SO GREAT a work is conducted by so "small" a people is a cause for wonder, frequently expressed, by visitors to the Sydney Adventist Hospital. . .

-medical director of the Sydney Adventist Hospital at the time this article was written

THAT SO GREAT a work is conducted by so "small" a people is a cause for wonder, frequently expressed, by visitors to the Sydney Adventist Hospital.

It does no injustice to the leaders and workers who devoted them selves to this institution's growth and development for seventy years to confess that "This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes" (Mark 12:11).

Indeed, one of the first to be associated with our hospital in Sydney was a woman inspired and directed by God herein lies the true explanation of the institution's illustrious history.

Adventist medical work in Australia's largest city was being conducted in improvised residential quarters when Ellen White called for facilities that would properly represent the grand and ennobling work we have to do for the Master.

At a union conference session held at the Avondale church, Cooranbong, New South Wales, presided over by Pastor A. G. Daniells, a special meeting was called on July 21, 1899, to consider the establishment of a medical and surgical sanitarium in the vicinity of Sydney. While the resolution was being discussed, Ellen White entered and addressed the meeting on the need for such an institution, where it should be located, and how funds should be raised. Giving an over-all picture of the enterprise, she concluded with an earnest ad monition for all to stand by the proposal and to prosecute it with vigor.

Later, traveling by horse and buggy, she undertook the inspection of a property at Wahroonga, in the upper North Shore of Sydney, and confirmed it as the location of choice. Her words in support of the appeal for the project were moving and eloquent. Her own contribution to the building fund was an indication of her personal interest and faith in the venture.

At that time the Fox Valley (Wahroonga) estate was on elevated bushland, quite a distance outside the city perimeter, and it suited the needs of the time admirably. Early brochures feature invitations to people to come out into the garden-country environment most conducive to the recovery from disability and ill-health. What is remarkable is that this same location, now incorporated with urban Greater Sydney, places the hospital in the best possible position to meet the needs of our own time and society. With a strong movement of the population and of institutions away from city to peripheral centers, the Sydney Adventist Hospital is as ideally located in 1975 as it was in 1905.

While Ellen White's association with the founding of the enterprise has been generally known, some insight into the dimensions of her involvement has recently come through a review of her unpublished references to the institution.

Undoubtedly Ellen White's most important counsels were those outlining the great ideals of the ministry to be conducted at the Sydney Sanitarium and Hospital. Education as a function of the institution's activities was emphasized repeatedly. Reform, economy, harmony, and spiritual atmosphere were other elements impressed upon the workers.

Specific Instructions

Particularly revealing of the closeness of Ellen White's association with the developing project are not, perhaps, her general counsels, but her specific instructions on various matters: the grounds were to be kept in the best order, there were to be seats under the trees, furniture was to be restful and comfortable, diet was to be healthful, liberal, and appetizing. None of the property (then evidently deemed large) was to be sold.

Nearly seventy-five years after the building of the original Sydney Sanitarium and Hospital in 1901, the new Sydney Adventist Hospital, the Fox Valley Medical and Dental Centre, and the 250-student School of Nursing stand as fitting tributes to providence, prophetic guidance, and consecrated human endeavor.

Opened on June 10, 1973, by His Excellency the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Roden Cutler, the new hospital incorporates all the diagnostic and therapeutic facilities of a modern general hospital with 304-patient beds. It can fairly claim to set new standards of patient accommodation and care in New South Wales and Australia. We believe this to have been equally true of the original sanitarium in its own time.

A Distinctive Character

Throughout its history it has been possible to maintain an almost completely Adventist staff complement (now numbering 600) at our sanitarium and hospital in Sydney. This, more than any other factor, has contributed to the dimension and depth of its witness in Australia.

Against trends toward the socialization of health-care delivery, the hospital has, by efficient operation and continuing public support, successfully guarded its independence to remain the most comprehensive fully private medical institution in Australia.

Policies of the hospital are determined by an all-Adventist board and administration. Other professionals are consulted and do participate in various activities of the hospital, but in a supporting and advisory role only. Medical practitioners are subject to bylaws and standards determined by the hospital board.

Ellen White was very specific in her instruction that sanitariums should be educational in their method and approach. (See Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 227, 228.) While always known for its health emphasis, the hospital has, in response to a contemporary revival of national interest in health, enlarged its out reach by developing a number of continuing health-education programs that have achieved wide spread popularity and publicity. These are concerned with smoking, weight control, nutrition, infant care and parenthood, and general health and fitness. In each case the course is comprehensive, touching the broad aspects of life and health so that these programs are a fitting introduction to the reception of truth.

The training of personnel shares importance with community educational programs as a cardinal function of our medical institutions. The teaching of nursing began from the outset, state accreditation being granted in 1927. Classes of fifty students (about 20 percent are men) are now accepted twice each year for a three-year training program.

More than 1,200 Adventist nursing professionals have graduated to date, and the school has maintained an outstanding record of scholarship. More than 100 graduates are presently engaged in the work of the church in Australia, the Far East, the islands of the Pacific, Africa, and some even in North America.

A survey conducted in Sydney showed that Adventists were better known by the Sydney Adventist Hospital than by any other agency or activity. How fortunate that, to many, Adventists first appear as a people not only of law but of love; people with not only a creed but with compassion.


Many are able to recall incidents where the hand of God has appeared quite clearly in the affairs of the institution. Only two can be related.

During World War II the American military authorities proposed to take over the Sydney Sanitarium and Hospital, which they considered ideal for a base hospital. The Australian Government was favorable, and in fact had agreed to the takeover in terms of war provisions. While understanding the need, it was apparent to the church that the hospital's special work and outreach would be suspended under this arrangement and that these could be difficult to recover.

Considering the King's business to be supreme, special prayer services were held three times daily during the crisis. God's promises of providence and protection were claimed. After three weeks of representation and intercession a letter was received from the authorities indicating a change of plan for their project. A praise service followed in the Wahroonga church, and a special offering was taken up as a fitting memorial to God's providence.

In 1971 one of Australia's largest construction firms, with a singularly successful record and the highest rating in equity, was appointed to the Sydney Adventist Hospital redevelopment project. When the contract was taken up, the speed with which building proceeded and the quality of the work provided occasion for remark by many interested observers.

In the inflationary spiral and credit squeeze of 1972 and 1973, however, the company found itself short of money and suddenly unable to continue operations. A giant of Australian industry was falling. Government aid was proposed, but then withheld. While the Australian financial world held its breath, the construction of the Sydney Adventist Hospital project drew to a close, and the company collapsed! One of the supervisors and a small crew of men remained in our employment to complete a few small operations, but the Sydney Adventist Hospital project was safe.

The leaders and staff of the Sydney Adventist Hospital are confident of God's leading in the future as confident as we are of His providence in the past. The direction given to the hospital by the special servant of the Lord, Ellen White, is especially acknowledged and valued. The record of the institution leads us once again to take up the admonition and promise: "Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper" (2Chron.20:20).

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-medical director of the Sydney Adventist Hospital at the time this article was written

August 1975

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