Hospital and Health Records

The State Records Office holds a large number of records created by the central agency responsible for health in Western Australia. These records were created by the Health Department and its predecessor agencies. The State Records Office also holds some records of mental health institutions, general hospitals and Local Boards of Health.

NOTE: Health records generally have a restricted access period of up to 100 years in cases concerning patient information. Clients who wish to view restricted health records must obtain written permission from the Health Department. Please see the Accessing Restricted Records section for information on how to apply for access to restricted records.

Departmental Records

The Central Board of Health was established by the Public Health Act of 1886, as the governing authority for the Local Boards of Health. The functions of the Board included conducting health inspections of abattoirs, schools and factories as well as supervising and controlling the sanitary services of all Government buildings throughout the State. Circa 1904 the Board began to be referred to as the Public Health Department.

The Public Health Department and the Medical Department (which was mainly concerned with hospitals) amalgamated on 1 October 1906 under the Principal Medical Officer, Dr Lovegrove. The Public Health Act of 1911 created the Department of Public Health under a Commissioner of Public Health, responsible to a Minister of the Crown. Between 1956 and 1979 the Medical Department again separated from the Public Health Department, before a brief period of amalgamation prior to 30 April 1981 when the Department was spilt into the Department of Hospital and Allied Services and the Public Health Department.

On 1 May 1984, the Public Health Department, the Department of Hospital and Allied Services, and the Mental Health Services Department amalgamated as the Health Department of Western Australia.

The records of the Health Department and its predecessor and successor agencies can be located through the catalogue.

The earliest records relating to public health in Western Australia may be located in the indexes to the Colonial Secretary's Office correspondence under the headings "Lunatics" and "Medical Department". Further information on accessing the records of the Colonial Secretary's Office can be found on the Colonial Secretary's Office page .

The following are selected examples of the types of Health Department records held by the State Records Office:

Royal Perth Hospital opening ceremony, 1948. [004014D] Hospital Records

In addition to departmental records the State Records Office holds several collections of records transferred from individual hospitals. The number of hospital related records held by the State Records Office is limited, with only sporadic coverage of admissions and discharge records and no patient files.

NOTE: Many of these records are restricted access records. Permission to access these records may need to be obtained from the Health Department. Please see the Accessing Restricted Records page for information on how to apply for access to restricted records.

The following represent selected examples of the types of hospital records held by the State Records Office:

Mental Health Institutions

In 1950 responsibility for mental health services in Western Australia was divested from the Public Health Department in favour of the newly created Mental Hospitals Department. Renamed the Mental Health Department in 1954 the agency remained responsible for the prevention and treatment of mental illness in WA up until 1984 when it was reintegrated with the Health Department.
Details of records held for the Mental Hospitals Department and its successor agencies can be located in the hardcopy AN 200 finding aid at the State Records Office and through the online catalogue.

The State Records Office also holds records created by various asylums and mental hospitals. Listings of the available records can be located through AN 200 or by searching the catalogue under the name of the required institution. Some administration records, correspondence and minutes for mental institutions may also be located through the general files series of the Health Department at Series 2523 and Series 268.

NOTE: Many of these records are restricted access records. Permission to access these records may need to be obtained from the Health Department. Please see the Accessing Restricted Records page for information on how to apply for access to restricted records.

Fremantle Asylum

Care of the mentally ill in WA began officially with the transfer of ten convicts from Fremantle Gaol to a new asylum located in Scot's Warehouse in November 1857. Fremantle Asylum was completed and occupied in July 1865. The Asylum was administered jointly by the Imperial and Colonial Governments until 1886 when all control was transferred to the latter. Fremantle Asylum was closed in 1909 after transferring all patients to the Claremont Asylum.

Full listings of the records available for the Fremantle Asylum can be located through the catalogue.

Claremont Hospital for the Mentally Insane

Opened in August 1903 the Claremont Hospital for the Mentally Insane was intended to replace the Fremantle Asylum. The transfer of patients from Fremantle to Claremont took place between 1905 and 1909.

Records available for the Claremont Hospital for the Mentally Insane are listed online.

Other Mental Institutions

The State Records Office holds records for the following mental institutions: Lemnos Hospital, Whitby Falls, Heathcote Mental Hospital and Greenplace Hostel.

Doctors and Nurses

Unfortunately few staff records are available for hospitals and medical services, and the majority of those records that do exist relate only to nursing staff. Records relating to doctors employed by the Health Department and its predecessor agencies can generally only be found in the Health Department's general files series. The most relevant files contained within these series are doctor's personal files and files relating to appointments for particular positions.
Personal files for doctors seem to occur most frequently in the following two series:

  • Public Health & Medical Department, Files - General, 1900-1972, Acc 1003, AN 120/4
  • Public Health & Medical Department, Files - General, 1934-79, Acc 1595, AN 120/18

General files can also include appointments of members to various boards controlled by the Health Department, including Local Boards of Health.

Nursing related records may also be found within the Department's general file series, although to a much lesser extent. There are however, several surviving series of Departmental records concerned with the training of nursing staff for government hospitals. These records include the following:

  • Registers - Nurses, 1947-1970, Acc 2770, AN 120/28
    Includes name, date of birth, religion, date of entry into nursing school, prior education, previous experience, next of kin, fathers occupation, marital status, address, comments, exam results. Alphabetical index for the period 1951-1970 is available for these registers at Acc 2771.
  • Record of Exam Results, 1954-1974, Acc 2772, Item 2, AN 120/28
  • Certificates Issued to General Trained Nurses, 1940-75, Acc 2773, AN 120/28

Further records relating to nurses may also be located in the Battye Library's Private Archives Collection, including the records of nursing associations.

Records relating to medical staff prior to the establishment of the Department may be obtained through the records of the Colonial Secretary's Office (CSO). These records are particularly useful for identifying information relating to Colonial District Medical Officers (DMOs) and Resident Medical Officers (RMOs). Further information can be found on our Colonial Secretary's Office page.

Dentists

The State Records Office holds some records relating to dentists and dental apprentices within Western Australia. These records generally refer to the registration of dentists with the Dental Board of WA.

Listings of Dental Board records are available at the hardcopy AN 245 finding aid available at the State Records Office. Other files relating to dentists and the Dental Board may be found in the Health Department's general file listings.

The following are selected examples of the records held by the State Records Office.

  • Dental Board of WA, Register of Dentists, 1895-1900, Acc 1199, Items 15, AN 245/1
  • Dental Board of WA, Register of Dental Apprentices, 1897-1939, Acc 1199, Items 16-18, AN 245/1
    Includes name of apprentice, to whom apprenticed and date of registration as a dentist.
  • Dental Board of WA, Records of Students, 1940-1946, Acc 1199, Item 19, AN 245/1
    Includes name, dates of students passing their 1st-4th year exams and date of receipt of diploma.
  • Dental Board of WA, Registers, 1900-1920, Acc 1199, Items 23-25, AN 245/1
    Gives name of dentist and date of registration.

Please Note: The State Records Office does not hold dental patient records.

Perth Colonial Hospital, 1862.	[6923B/120]Local Boards of Health

The State Records Office holds the records of numerous Local Council Health Boards and Health Committees. Records relating to particular Health Boards and Health Committees can be located through the catalogue.

Many of the records for Local Boards of Health can be located within the records of the Local Government authority for the relevant district, particularly in the case of the early Roads Board records. Further information on can be found on our Local Government Records page.

Records relating to Local Boards of Health may also be found in the Health Department general files series.

Selected examples of these Local Board of Health records include:

Royal Commissions of Inquiry

The State Records Office also holds records relating to a number of Royal Commissions into the State's hospitals, mental institutions and medical services. These Royal Commissions have investigated matters such as the operation of the State's Hospitals (1922), Heathcote Mental Home (1938), Claremont Hospital for the Mentally Insane (1936 & 1950) and a general inquiry into Lunacy (1922).

Listings of Royal Commission records can be found in AN 537 or by searching the catalogue under the name of the required Royal Commission.

Please Note: There is a 30 year access restriction on Royal Commission records. Further nformation on accessing restricted records can be found on the Accessing Restricted Records page.

Other Health Related Records

Various other health related records are also contained within the collections of the State Records Office. These records can be identified by searching for the name of the relevant agency in the catalogue.

Selected examples of other health related records include:

Further Information

State Records Office staff at the Enquiry Desk can provide additional information on the range of health and hospital related records available from within the State Records Office collection. For more information contact us by telephone on (08) 9427 3600, by facsimile on (08) 9427 3368, via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au or in person.