RCH150 Timeline: 1970

1970: RCH celebrates 100 years

The RCH celebrates a centenary with a series of events. Among the highlights were successful medical and surgical conferences which attracted leading paediatric figures from around the world, a paediatric nursing conference, children’s film festival, art exhibition, thanksgiving services at St. Paul’s and St. Patrick’s Cathedrals, and the publication of the centenary history.

Opening of the Paediatric Surgical Congress by the Governor General Sir Paul Hasluck, 1970
The Royal Children’s Hospital; Parkville, Victoria
Gelatin silver photograph

1970: New treatment for premature babies and Handicapped Children’s Centre established

The hospital’s neonatal unit discovers new treatment called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which saves the lives of hundreds of premature babies. A Handicapped Children’s Centre is established.

1973: North-West building at Parkville opens

The new North-West building at Parkville opens.

1973: Rotavirus discovered by Professor Ruth Bishop AC

Rotavirus, the cause of a deadly form of severe gastroenteritis, discovered by professor Ruth Bishop AC.

It was a major breakthrough in one of the most significant causes of global infant mortality at the time. About 10,000 Australian children were being hospitalised with the disease every year. In most cases, doctors didn’t know what was causing the acute gastroenteritis.

That was until Ruth and her team identified the Rotavirus under an electron microscope.
Four decades later, vaccines have been developed as a direct result of the breakthrough, which Graeme likens to the discovery of polio and esteemed immunologist Sir Gus Nossal once described as a ‘great hallmark of Australian science’.

It earned Ruth, who is now in her eighties, the prestigious Florey Medal in 2013 – the first time a woman was honoured with the award.

Since the discovery, hospital admissions for acute gastroenteritis in Australia have dropped to under 2,000 a year. The gastroenteritis ward at RCH no longer exists. It isn’t needed.

However, the fight against rotavirus isn’t over. Tragically, the life-threatening diarrhoeal disease still kills about half a million children under the age of five a year, mostly in developing countries.

Professor Ruth Bishop AC, 1973
The Royal Children’s Hospital; Parkville, Victoria
Gelatin silver photograph

1975: Two sets of conjoined twins successfully separated

Conjoined twins Yew Sun and Yew Tze Foo from Singapore and Melbourne conjoined twins Grant and Andrew Priestly are presented to The Royal Children’s Hospital, ten weeks apart.

The Foo twins had a combined wight of 4.8kg and were joined from the breastbone to the navel with a shared liver. They were successfully separated by Dr. Peter Jones and his team.

The Priestly twins had a combined weight of 6kg and were joined at the lower abdomen and shared a small intestine. They were successfully separated by Dr. Nate Myers and his team.

The Foo Twins, 1975
The Royal Children’s Hospital; Parkville, Victoria
Gelatin silver photograph