The Macedon Sanatorium, which was in operation from 1899 to 1910, would have long disappeared from people’s memory if not for the Sanatorium Lake that became a picnic spot being a part of the Mount Macedon Regional Park.
The tourist information boards at Sanatorium Lake state that the Sanatorium was closed after forest fires destroyed it. But that is untrue. The true story of the Macedon Sanatorium is as follows
The Committee of the Victorian Sanatoria for Consumptives were running a Sanatorium at Echuca since 1891, which was usually closed during the summer months due to the hot weather. The Committee believed that the trying summer heat retarded the recovery of the patients, so purchased an existing private residence with 5 acres land at Mount Macedon in 1898 due to the more suitable cooler climate there. The Committee made alterations to the existing building and made extensive new additions. The Sanatorium was situated opposite Taylors and Sangsters Nursery at Mount Macedon. The plan was to move the patients to Mount Macedon facility during summer months and back to Echuca during winter.
The Sanatorium followed open air treatment for the patients. It was assumed that the forest of Eucalyptus and Pine trees at Mount Macedon would materially assist the stimulating effects of pure mountain air surrounding the sanatorium.
There were plans to extend the Sanatorium which was met with opposition from Locals. In 1902, a deputation representing residents and property holders of Upper Macedon gave a petition to the Board of Health against any further extension to the Sanatorium. Their argument was that Mount Macedon is considered as a health resort by people from Melbourne and its vicinity, who were thus able to get much needed change and rest. They would be losers if the place was turned into a phthisical refuge.
In 1905, the Sanatorium was narrowly saved from forest fires by the inmates and staff.
In 1908, Premier of Victoria intimated the Sanatorium Committee that unless the recommendation of the inspector of Charities, the main feature of which was the abolition of paying patients were adopted, the new increased grant from the Government which was around 1000 pounds would be withheld. Government wanted to open the Sanatorium for people of all classes. Government held a view that the Sanatorium kept its doors closed and barred against those who are without means.
On 30th May 1908, The Age published the experiences of a Non- paying patient at the Sanatorium, which goes as follows,
“When the consumptive who cannot afford to pay 30 per week arrives at the sanatorium, he reports to the matron, who asks a lot of questions. He is then turned over to the medical superintendent, who asks the same set of questions. He is then shown a bed and left to himself. To all who are not cheerful philosophers, and who are doubtless keenly depressed already because of their illness, this kind of introduction amongst strangers many are not the most humanitarian devisable, but it can be allowed to pass. The newcomer is not informed of any rules, but as time goes on, he may discover that the rules have been broken, and that lie is the culprit.
‘The food is coarse, and as a general rule is badly cooked. Eggs are rarely seen. Egg puddings are such in name only. Soups are given only to those who can take nothing else. There are some patients who can hardly get about, yet all they get served up to them on four out of the seven days of the week is a junk of roast or boiled mutton and potatoes.
Part paying and free patients are required to do various kinds of work. Generally speaking, a doctor sees a patient on his arrival, and sometimes once a fortnight afterwards, although there are cases that have not been examined for four or five weeks. “
The Sanatorium was already facing a shortage of funds and lack of public support. Even the funds for extension of the Sanatorium was exhausted using for the daily running. The new Demand from Government of Victoria was the last nail and the Committee decided to close the Sanatorium on 31st August 2008.
The Sanatorium conducted its business more for profit than philanthropy, serving well to do patients who could afford to pay the fees. The Sanatorium was getting a subsidy of £300 from the Victorian Government annually, whole of which the organisation paid to its Secretary Mr W.R. Church as salary. He also received a commission upon the collection of subscriptions. After the Government threatened to stop the subsidy, the secretary’s salary was reduced to £50 per annum. On 5th August 1907, the President of Victoria Sanatoria applied the Government for an increase in subsidy from £300 to £1000 stating that unless this grant was made it, it will be impossible for the institution to continue effectively. The inspector for Charities suggested that, if the institution conducted its business as a charity dealing with the applicants on the principle of first come first served, increased assistance might be given. This resulted in the Premier of Victoria asking the Board of Health to prepare a report on the institution.
The Board found that there is no benefit for the Sanatorium to function as an itinerant Sanatorium moving between Echuca and Mount Macedon according to seasons as it will increase administration costs. As a condition of assistance, it also suggested selling the whole of Echuca property to settle present liabilities. The Board also suggested the need to find a site suitable for year-round occupation.
In early August 1908, The President of Victorian Sanatoria Murray Smith, submitted the following resolution on behalf of the Committee:
“In view of the conditions laid down by the Government for the continuance of its financial assistance, and the lack of further support by the public. It is expedient to close the institution at a date not later than August 31, and that the retiring committee be reappointed and empowered to take the necessary steps to any this resolution into effect.”
After it was closed, an order was given to destroy the Sanatorium by fire to contain any germs. But the order was not carried out. In March 1910, The Victorian Government paid 400 pounds for the transfer of the Sanatorium to Crown lands to cut up into residential lots.