Galvia/Calvary Hospital

An interesting number of medical institutions were established in Galway in the 20th century. In 1908 the Port Sanitary Intercepting Hospital was built near the docks opposite Forthill Cemetery as quarantine for any suspected cases of cholera or smallpox that might have come in on board ship. It cost £1,000, had 20 beds, and happily it was never needed for its primary purpose and only ever housed three patients. It burnt down in 1966.

Dr Bill Sandys opened St Bride’s Nursing Home on Sea Road in 1916. Dr Michael O’Malley joined him there and they ran it as a private nursing and maternity home while also accepting medical and surgical cases. In 1927 Seamount Nursing Home was opened at Blackrock by Dennis Morris and it also functioned as a maternity home.

There were small maternity homes in Wellpark, in Kilcorkey, and Manresa in Salthill, but these closed when the new maternity section of the Regional Hospital opened in 1942. Nurse Colgan ran a maternity unit in Palmyra Park until 1947, and St Theresa’s on Kingshill, Salthill, was still registered as a maternity home in 1958, but by 1960 was functioning as a geriatric home only.

The construction of the Merlin Park Hospital Complex began in 1945. It was built primarily to fight against the scourge of TB which was rife in the country at the time. Merlin will always be associated with Dr Noel Browne.

Calvary was the not very inspirational name given to a new hospital which was opened by the ‘Blue Nuns’ in Renmore in 1953. It was well equipped, had 71 beds, and provided a maternity service and in-patient care for medical and surgical patients. It encouraged a number of well-known obstetricians, physicians, and surgeons to set up private practice in Galway. Part-time consultants at the Regional Hospital also attended there. The maternity service closed in 1973 because of staff difficulties and the expense of maintaining 24-hour cover. The nuns closed the hospital altogether in 1985 because of a lack of vocations and a reassessment of the aims of the order. Private interests bought the property and on March 1 1986, the new Galvia Hospital opened under lay management.

All of the above is taken from Galway, A Medico Social History by James Murray, a remarkable work of research and scholarship of history, social history, and medicine in Galway. Still available in good bookshops.

Our photograph of Calvary (courtesy of the National Library ) was taken by Captain Morgan in 1953, just after the construction finished. The Dublin Road is seen on the right and the Renmore Road is on the top of the photograph. The small white building opposite the hospital gate lodge was Duggan’s shop.

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