The Mater Hospital is the birthplace of many dramatic firsts in medicine and has fostered medical discoveries and innovations that have improved healthcare and saved lives, writes Brian Conlan.
On September 24. 2011 the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, celebrates the 150th anniversary of its opening. The Archbishop of Dublin, Daniel Murray opened the hospital on September 24 in 1861. The Sisters of Mercy, who were founded in Dublin by Venerable Catherine McAuley in 1831 to care for the sick and poor, built the hospital.
At the time Dublin was noted for its level of poverty and city tenement buildings. Most of the poor had no access to hospitals and it was Catherine McAuley’s dream to build a large hospital in Dublin where the only admission criteria was that the person was sick and in need of medical treatment.
Unfortunately she did not live long enough to see this dream realised, she died in 1841. However, ‘the seed did not die’. Encouraged by Archbishop Daniel Murray the Sisters of Mercy set about the task of building the hospital in 1848 to provide the sick with care and a sense of dignity.
This was an era when politics virtually excluded the poor from medical treatment. The Sisters bought the land on Eccles Street. In 1855, the building commenced. By the time the first part of the hospital was built they were heavily in debt. Undaunted, they embarked on fundraising and further building of east and west wings according to available funds, until three sections were completed in 1886.
The hospital opened with 40 beds, which increased gradually. It was the first Irish hospital to remain open 24 hours a day to admit patients, starting with the cholera victims in 1886. Today with 600 beds in the hospital, history repeats, but for quite different issues. When the hospital opened, the nurses, ward helpers together with seven medical staff, staffed it. It was a small beginning, but it went from strength to strength.
The dedication, innovation and tireless pursuit of scientific and medical advances that have happened over the years at our hospital have put the Mater at the forefront of medical care in Ireland
The Mater Hospital is the birthplace of many dramatic firsts in medicine. It has fostered medical discoveries and innovations that have improved healthcare and saved lives. We have witnessed at the Mater remarkable medical, surgical and anaesthetic advancements being pioneered, improving the quality of life for a new generation of survivor.
This Sesquicentenary commemorates and recognises the hospital’s ongoing impact on healthcare nationally and internationally. This hospital has always been looked upon as a leading institution others can emulate, a responsibility it takes seriously. Historical risks associated with surgery and anaesthesia have changed dramatically. Cutting edge research and recent advances provide the bases for future innovative procedures. Physicians and researchers now focus on addressing the long term outcomes and health issues affecting patients surviving previously fatal disease.
The dedication, innovation and tireless pursuit of scientific and medical advances that have happened over the years at our hospital have put the Mater at the forefront of medical care in Ireland.
One hundred and fifty years on, the hospital remains as one of the leading public voluntary hospitals in the country. The hospital has a local, regional, national and international profile. It is the national centre for a range of services including cardiothoracic surgery and heart and lung transplantation, spinal injuries and pulmonary hypertension. It treats approximately 50,000 inpatients and day cases annually. Another 50,000 attend the ED each year and over 220,000 patients attend for outpatient services annually. The future of the Mater Hospital is very much assured on the Mater Campus which in time will see the development of the National Paediatric Hospital on the site and the relocation of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital to Eccles Street.
The New Adult Hospital is due to open mid next year. This includes a new ED, Outpatient suites, 12 new theatres, 36 new critical care beds in single room format, new Radiology Department, 130 new single rooms accommodating cardiothoracic surgery, spinal injuries and oncology patients, a new GI and CV suite plus a 444 space underground car park.
This is a year of celebration for all of us who are associated with the Mater Hospital. It is also a time to take stock and reflect on the contributions of so many people past and present who have made this hospital such a wonderful place not only to be cared for in but also to work in.
Brian Conlan is Chief Executive of the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin