Preston and Northcote Community Hospital was envisaged during World War II, constructed in the post-war years and opened by the then Premier, Sir Henry Bolte, on 3rd July 1960.It began out of a desire for the growing Preston community to have their own local hospital instead of having to travel to the city for medical care. The road towards establishing the hospital proved long and frustrating. The Preston Council approved the establishment of the hospital in May 1941 and a hospital committee was set up in June 1942. The committee originally planned a 25-bed hospital, however government plans were afoot to build several community hospitals in the range of 150-200 beds to relieve pressure on the existing facilities in the inner suburbs. The 7 1/2 acre site in Bell Street was acquired by the Charities Board for 7500 pounds. This land had once been a dairy farm. Some work was begun but was discontinued between 1952-55 due to lack of government funding. At this time many local Appeal committees and Ladies' Auxillaries were instrumental in raising large sums of money from the public. However, financial difficulties continued to delay the project. On May 13th 1958 a fire broke out which caused 40,000 pounds in damage. Because of this, considerable effort went into the provision of additional fire protection for the buildings. By 1958, finance was finally provided and a 304-bed hospital was finally completed which provided a wide range of services including midwifery, pathology, surgery, medical plastic surgery, a children's ward, dental surgery, casualty ward, outpatients' clinic, radiology, pharmacy, and physiotherapy. The foundation stone was laid on May 13, 1951. The final cost of the hospital was estimated to be 2.5 million pounds. Twins were the first babies to be delivered at the hospital on July 2nd 1960, the day before the offical opening. The local mayors at the time were Cr W. Tunaley (Preston) and Cr J.C. Potter (Northcote). In 1990, PANCH celebrated its 30th anniversary of service to the community. In that year, the hospital treated 16,036 inpatients, 98,677 outpatients and 98,617 casualty patients.
In February 1995 the Victorian Government established a Hospitals Planning Board to evaluate metropolitan health services. Out of this came the recommendation to join individually run hospitals into amalgamated health networks.This also included the establishment of a new hospital at Epping to accommodate the surge in population in the outer suburbs. This involved a scaling down of services at PANCH and a complete transfer of PANCH staff to the new Northern Hospital at Epping as of February 1998. So after 38 years of service to the local community PANCH ceased to exist as a hospital.
The site has been refurbished as Bell City, with a resort-style hotel, office spaces and corporate venues.
Brearley, Kenneth Images of PANCH: the life of a hospital, 1997
Northcote Leader, October 21 1998
Northcote Leader, July 11 1990
Northcote Leader-Budget July 6 1960