A century on the pandemic frontline for Mater

They’re the faces of Queensland’s pandemic frontline, captured more than a century apart.

Students enrolled in Mater Education’s Diploma of Nursing masked up against COVID-19 for their return to classroom learning earlier this year, mirroring similar precautions taken by Mater nurses and clinicians during the Spanish flu more than a century ago.

Mater Chief People and Learning Officer Donna Bonney said the way pandemics and infectious diseases are understood and treated has come a long way throughout the past 100 years, but one factor has remained the same.

“Nurses, doctors and other clinicians continue to put themselves on the frontline to protect our community,” Ms Bonney said.

“We certainly have more education and resources to manage pandemics in 2022 than we did in 1920, but the health and safety of our communities continue to depend on those nurses and clinicians who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us.”

The first hospital laboratory in Queensland was opened at Mater during the Spanish flu pandemic to help diagnose and treat infectious diseases.

“One of the founders of that laboratory, Sister Mary Chanel, was fascinated with the scientific developments emerging at the time in the areas of biochemistry, microbiology and bacteriology and she played a large role in our understanding of how to tests and treat infectious diseases,” she said. 

Ms Bonney said Mater clinicians had continued to play a key role in Queensland’s pandemic frontline workforce, providing more than 128 000 COVID-19 vaccinations last year and testing more than 2 500 patient samples every day.

Image 1: The first cohort of Mater Diploma of Nursing students to the Mater Hill campus, South Brisbane 2022

Image 2: Doctors and nursing staff line the steps at St Laurence's isolation hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic. The influenza that began overseas in 1918 struck Queensland in early 1919. Source: Mater Archives and Heritage Centre Collection

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