Prior to the construction of Heywood’s first hospital, local people often had to rely on doctors from Portland, if they had a doctor at all. Patients went to Portland on horseback, some in spring carts and drays, some in bullock wagons, and some even rode on the backs of bullocks.
Following a diphtheria epidemic in the early 1800s in which eight young children died, local townspeople decided it was time for Heywood to have a full-time resident doctor. A public meeting was called and a fund started to bring a doctor to the town. The townspeople were successful and a Dr Davis arrived, and later, a Dr Yeville.
Later, Dr R Collins saw a great need for a hospital and in 1893 founded a private hospital known as Dawnleigh Hospital. This was later to become the Heywood Bush Nursing Hospital. The original Dawnleigh Bush Nursing Hospital was located in Carey Street; Heywood.
The Heywood and District Memorial Hospital (now named Heywood Rural Health) was planned by the Heywood Bush Nursing Hospital Committee of Management. The President at the time, Mr. Vic Sibley, was a very active advocate of the new hospital. The committee often met in an old wooden building next to the Heywood Hotel. Members sat on wooden benches using the light from storm lanterns to carefully prepare the plans for the new hospital. Historical records indicate that finance was a problem.
After lengthy discussions, the Heywood Bush Nursing Hospital was accepted as an annex of the Glenelg Base Hospital (now the Western District Health Service) and as such came under the auspices of the Hospital and Charities Commission, therefore qualifying for Government operating grants.
Land was purchased and a six-bed hospital erected at 21 Barclay Street, Heywood. This facility was opened by Dr J Lindell (Chairman of the Victorian Hospital & Charities Commission) on 3 October 1957.
From 1957 onwards the hospital continued to expand its beds, adding an aged residential care Hostel called The Sydney Quayle Hostel in 1983. The Lynne Quayle Hostel in 1992, and the Fitzroy Lodge (Dementia) wing in 1995.
From 1999 to 2002 the Hospital underwent a major capital works program costing $5.2 million dollars in which buildings were brought up to the latest building codes or standards. This building program was funded in full by the State of Victoria through the Department of Human Services.
Today Heywood Rural Health is a fifty bed facility which funded by the Victorian Department of Health under the Small Rural Health Services flexible funding model, which has allowed the hospital to expand its services to include a mixture of bed based and community based services.
Our health service is aware of and continually assesses the needs of the local community it serves.