It is a huge part of everyday life on Tayside, with thousands working there and even more heading through its doors as patients, but Ninewells Hospital has only been around for 40 years.
As it celebrates its anniversary, this week the Tele takes a look at how the region’s biggest hospital has changed over the years.
These days, it is the ground-breaking research at Ninewells making the headlines, but even when it was being built it was breaking ground as one of the most advanced hospitals in Europe.
The scale of the site was huge, with everything under one roof. The hospital boasted a kitchen bigger than the largest church in Dundee initially catering for 800 patients while Ninewells needed more telephone lines than Brechin!
The massive project was hit by set-backs, delays and huge costs, with initial estimates of about 5 million soaring up to 22.5 million by the time of opening 10 years after construction began.
It was the first teaching hospital to be built in Britain last century, and care was taken over even the smallest details wards were decorated in autumnal colours, because they were seen as soothing and home-like, while theatres were decked out in green.
Patients were first transferred to the hospital on January 31, 1974, from Dundee Royal Infirmary and Maryfield Hospital, both of which have been closed for some time now.
The first woman through the doors at 8.40am was Jennie Stewart, of Arklay Place, who was presented with a bouquet of flowers. She said: “I felt like a queen for an hour. I was only told I would be the first woman patient in the new hospital before the ambulance doors opened. I couldn’t believe it.”
By contrast, the first man 75-year-old William Stewart, of Strathmartine Road did not raise his hopes for the state-of-the-art hospital too high, saying: “If it is as pleasant here as it was in Maryfield, it will be all right.”
When it opened, hospital porters said they were having to walk 15 miles a day around the 230-acre site, while rumours spread that doctors and nurses were using roller skates and scooters to get around. The corridors were wide enough for roller blading, hospital officials said, but for safety reasons staff were having to make their way on foot.
Such was the task of negotiating the corridors that more than 100 volunteers were called in to help point patients in the right direction.
The grand opening was on October 23, 1974, when the Queen Mother (pictured, right, meeting staff) spent three hours at the hospital. She met nurses, who formed a guard of honour, and was shown around, as well as being presented with pearls.
Opening the hospital officially, she said: “In many respects, this magnificent building speaks for itself the foresight of the planners, the genius of the designers, the skill of the builders all are evident to the eye and greatly to be appreciated. Nothing that science can devise, nor money provide, will be lacking for the treatment of the patients. But it will be for the medical and nursing staff to give the loving care to each person who comes to this hospital, which is more precious than all else.”
As the years have gone by, the hospital has seen plenty more firsts the first baby was born in the Ninewells maternity unit on January 28, 1975, a renal unit came in 1989 and Tayside Children’s Hospital was opened in 2006. People across the region have regularly passed through its doors, while tens of thousands of folk will have caught their first glimpse of the world in the hospital’s maternity unit.
Work with the University of Dundee sees pioneering research carried out on a daily basis and, as the largest teaching hospital in Europe, Ninewells continues to see the region put at the forefront of medicine worldwide just as it did 40 years ago.