The Prince of Wales Hospital 1953 - 1998
The Prince of Wales Hospital was initially established in The Walk, Cardiff, in around 1914, as the Wales and Monmouthshire Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers. It was renamed when formally opened in 1918 by HRH The Prince of Wales (subsequently Duke of Windsor). Following the establishment of the National Health Service it was decided to move to the now disused and somewhat derelict site of the former American military hospital at Rhydlafar.
Shortage of housing in the post-war era had led to squatters occupying the site, but enormous progress in the orthopaedic field of medicine meant that new and larger buildings were required to fulfil this need. Wales also had a plethora of exciting and pioneering surgeons, all wanting to improve the lives of those afflicted by conditions that could now be operated upon. Not only hip replacements, but corrective surgery for young children with genetic defects, or those who had survived road traffic and other accidents could be undertaken with modern anaesthesia and techniques.
Rhydlafar again became a hive of activity, with new buildings going up - a veritable honeycomb of passageways to theatres and wards. There were new jobs for local people including doctors, nurses, cooks, porters, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, and in the case of the children, schoolteachers. It was not without hiccups from various quarters. Finance remained a problem and new pioneering surgery meant more and more strains upon the hospital. There were even some disagreements about which type of hip replacement was the best (or most economical), but everybody had superb treatment and the country air did much to improve healing and rehabilitation.
By the early 1990s, a helicopter pad was engineered, by which time the Prince of Wales had really became a leading orthopaedic hospital. Students from medical schools were sent here for their orthopaedic lectures and practice, as were other essential related personnel.
About the same time as the orthopaedic departments were established, it was obvious that a base for blood transfusion services was needed, and there was space at Rhydlafar. Hence, one large area was designated to house all the new and much needed laboratories and equipment to conduct such a project.
The Prince of Wales Hospital had evolved with gusto. Social life thrived; everyday ups and downs were experienced as always; but it was a vital hospital and full of vigour. It was subsequently threatened with closure on a number of occasions, and this eventually occurred in 1998, with all services being relocated to other units in South Wales.