After WWII, the population of Forster-Tuncurry had almost doubled and there was a growing need for a local hospital. At the time there was no bridge joining the twin towns and the punt ferry service only operated between 6am and midnight. The Manning River District Hospital was the closest hospital but emergency travel from Forster was a long journey south before heading north to Taree. In 1951, the Forster Progress Association reformed and established plans for a cottage hospital.
A house on the corner of Cross and Strand Streets came on the market. The Association bought the house and converted it into a small five bed hospital. Through financial generosity of community members and the assistance of working bees and local services clubs the Cape Hawke Community Hospital opened 25 April 1957.
After the Forster-Tuncurry bridge opened in 1959 the area’s population boomed. By 1967 there was overcrowding in both the Cape Hawke and Bulahdelah Hospitals and with the closure of Nabiac Hospital there were growing concerns about available medical services. Despite multiple government promises of funding for a new hospital the money was never forthcoming. A small band of women, mostly grandmothers, threw themselves into gigantic fundraising efforts and on 21 November 1970 the new Cape Hawke Memorial Hospital opened in Breckenridge Street Forster. A newspaper stated at the opening that this hospital may go down in history as the only hospital in NSW built on “Roast beef and apple pie”.
In 2020 the hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary and is now called the Forster Private Hospital.
Author: Janine Roberts based on the book by
Roger Lynch, ‘Built on Roast Beef and Apple Pie: a history of Cape Hawke Community Hospital from 1950 to 2020’, 2020.