The Adelaide Hospital and Upholding Protestant Healthcare in Ireland 1950-1972
Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland Seminar Series, 3 April 2014
This paper has emerged out of research into the the Church of Ireland’s approach, during the 1950s and 1960s, to medicine, medical ethics and healthcare. As an institution delivering healthcare to predominantly Church of Ireland patient’s, with a predominant Church of Ireland ethos, and a predominantly Church of Ireland staff, the Adelaide Hospital enjoyed the position as the lead institution in Church of Ireland healthcare. It is the only hospital envisaged as, in some way, belonging to the Church at the central level. The strong sense of familiarity between the church and the hospital leaves an imprint in the archival records that reveals the culture and priorities of the Church of Ireland healthcare.
The Church of Ireland Gazette was not hesitant in acknowledging the special relationship between the church and the hospital and this sense of ownership does not pertain to any other hospital in Ireland. The Adelaide is also unusual among voluntary hospitals in that it was especially well-preserved from external influence. It was not a local authority hospital and a local authority representative only appeared on the board in 1953 when it agreed to receive some limited local authority funds. It refused money from the Hospital Trust Fund until the mid-1950s and as an essentially religious and Protestant institution it was free from the direct involvement of the Catholic Church. Therefore, of the dominant players in Irish healthcare other than the Department of Health – the Irish Medical Association (IMA), the Hospital Trust Fund, the Catholic Church, and local authorities – only the IMA could make itself within the corridors of the Adelaide Hospital until the 1950s. Therefore it is an ideal test study of the Church of Ireland’s approach to healthcare and Irish protestantism more generally.