History of Monkstown Hospital

Monkstown was a small voluntary general hospital which did a lot of work in the local community. It was built in 1835 by the charitably inclined through voluntary subscription and had its own governing body. This governing body had previously opened the Rathdown Dispensary in the district in 1812 in response to a pressing need to relieve the sick poor in the area.

The facilities for medical aid offered by the poor law authorities would appear to have been largely ineffective and it was decided to open a hospital. It was called Rathdown Fever Hospital. There were about 16 beds, serving only fever patients and major accidents and the running cost was about £150 per annum.

During the mid-1800s the hospital was much commended for relieving distress when fevers of great virulence broke out. So widespread were these epidemics that it was often necessary to put two patients in the one bed. Probably on this account, the committee in 1876 decided to extend the Hospital to admit general cases and a new wing costing £900 was opened in 1880. It catered for some 4,000 Out-patients per year and 150 In-patients.

Meanwhile in 1878 the name was changed to Monkstown Hospital to distinguish it from the Rathdown Union Hospital at Loughlinstown. By 1886, the number of patients seeking admission was such that Mr Henry Gray Crawley, the first consultant surgeon to the hospital, requested a further extension to the building. Funding was duly organised in the district and a sum of £1500 was procured. A new wing and operating theatre were opened bringing the total number of beds to 26.

During the period from 1939 to 1955 significant progress was made under the direction of Dr. R de C. Wheeler. A new Out-patients department was built. A house was acquired next door to the hospital to serve as a Nurses home. The operating theatre was modernised and Physiotherapy, Radiology and Pathology Departments were added, together with an additional number of beds, bringing the total to 33.

In 1956 Dr. Desmond de Courcy Wheeler succeeded to the position of Medical Superintendent, on the death of Dr. R de Courcy Wheeler, a position he held until the closure of the hospital. The hospital was largely remodeled and modernised and the scope of the work greatly increased with the appointment of Mr David Lane as Consultant Surgeon. Over the years the hospital continued to serve the community for whom it was started and continued to attract significant local support for its fundraising activities.

By the early 1980s the Hospital had 33 beds, 700 admissions per annum with a bed occupancy of 83%. In addition out-patient attendances came to approximately 20,000 and 550 operations were carried out annually. The facilities included x-ray department, physiotherapy and pathology departments. The hospital was run by a Board of Governors, secretary manager and a small administrative staff. At this point the future of the hospital looked secure.

However, all this was to change with the recession of the mid 1980s and with it the cut-backs in grants made to hospitals. The Hospital had its Health Allocation Grant cut in 1986 and then further reduced by 22% in 1987. During 1987 the board had to make very difficult decisions as it became clear through meetings with Department of Health officials and when the matter was raised in the Dail by Geraldine Kennedy TD that there would be no support forthcoming from the Department of Health. On the 10th July 1987 they made the announcement that the hospital would cease to function on 31st July 1987. In this announcement they noted:

The Board deeply regrets the manner in which cuts in the Health Grant have been applied to Monkstown Hospital. Throughout its history it has been run with a high degree of financial responsibility, regularly reviewing its costs and rarely exceeding its budgeted expenditure within the Government’s annual allocation. In view of its small size the Hospital is obviously unable to respond to the type of economies now envisaged by the Minister.

The hospital closed and its business and legal commitments were wound up. The property was sold and the legal process of setting up Monkstown Hospital Foundation began. This culminated in a High Court Approved Trust set up in May 1990 which defined the powers of the foundation and mapped the road to the present day.

Find Out More about Monkstown Hospital Foundation Grants