Catholic ethos of St Vincent’s emphasised at opening in 1970

Archbishop McQuaid said Catholic hospitals must follow ‘moral law’ laid down by church

St Vincent’s hospital in Elm Park, Dublin, was officially opened on November 27th, 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

St Vincent’s hospital in Elm Park, Dublin, was officially opened on November 27th, 1970. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

On November 27th, 1970, from the opening of the new St Vincent’s hospital at Elm Park in south Dublin, this newspaper reported that the then Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid made it clear “the same sisters own and manage the new hospital” as did the old St Vincent’s hospital on St Stephen’s Green. The archbishop was referring to the Sisters of Charity.

He was unequivocal on other matters too.

“It is the unchanging character of a Catholic hospital that every member of its staff accepts with clear assent and fulfils with scrupulous exactitude the moral law that regulates their therapy, medical and surgical,” he said.

“There is one authority that proposes, explains and defends that objective moral law: the teaching authority in the church. On this solemn day when a new hospital , with the blessing of God, has been dedicated to the service of the sick, it is our duty to declare that in this institute every respect shall be shown, in theory and in practice, to the moral teaching of the church.”

Mass

Archbishop McQuaid’s was the first address of a day which began with a Mass attended by 800 guests including the then president, Éamon de Valera, taoiseach Jack Lynch, tánaiste and minister for health Erskine Childers, the Rev Mother General of the Religious Sisters of Charity, Mother Teresa Anthony, the Knights of Malta and the Army band.

Archbishop McQuaid was followed by Mr Childers (a member of the Church of Ireland) who said new hospitals such as St Vincent’s represented a huge capital investment in buildings and equipment by the State.

The cost of running the State’s hospitals was “by far the largest component in the nation’s total health bill,” he said, then about £45 million annually, representing about 75 per cent of total annual healthcare costs.

Praising the Sisters of Charity, he noted how they controlled more than 2,000 hospital and institutional beds in Dublin alone – as well as providing a wide range of services in other areas of the country such as home visiting, orphanages, homes for the blind, homes for women and girls, youth clubs, meals for the poor and the care of the mentally handicapped.

Archbishop John Charles McQuaid: “It is our duty to declare that in this institute every respect shall be shown, in theory and in practice, to the moral teaching of the church.”
Archbishop John Charles McQuaid: “It is our duty to declare that in this institute every respect shall be shown, in theory and in practice, to the moral teaching of the church.”

Prof PN Meenan, chairman of the medical board at the new hospital, traced its origins to 1934 when the Elm Park site was originally purchased under a de Valera Fianna Fáil government. Foundations for the new hospital were first laid in 1956, when Fine Gael’s Tom O’Higgins was minister for health.

On November 1st, 1970, the first patients were transferred from St Stephen’s Green to the new St Vincent’s site at Elm Park. By the opening date of November 27th, 1970, there were 385 patients resident at the hospital.

Currently St Vincent’s hospital has 554 inpatient beds.

Hospital group

In January 2003 the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, incorporating St Vincent’s University Hospital, St Vincent’s Private Hospital and St Michael’s Hospital Dún Laoghaire, was established.

According to its website it is “a not-for-profit, voluntary group of hospitals” which “has charitable status and it’s shareholders are the Sisters of Charity”.

Its mission statement says its values are “those of human dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy, which are based on the mission and philosophy of the Religious Sisters of Charity, our shareholders”.

It strives “to maintain excellence in clinical care, education and research . . . in line with the above principles and with our responsibilities to the wider Irish healthcare system”.

Among its “core values” are “respecting the sacredness of human life and the dignity and uniqueness of each person”, “accepting people as they are, bringing Christian love, empathy and caring to all,” and “acting with righteousness and integrity which respects the rights of all”.

Currently there are just 213 Sisters of Charity in Ireland, with an average age of 76. There are two on the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group’s 12-member board, Sr Mary Benton and Sr Agnes Reynolds.