The Central Hospital

“The newly constituted County Hospitals and Dispensary Committee met for the first time on the 25th of February, 1922, in the boardroom of the old gate lodge of the old workhouse to organise the transfer of the Galway Hospital (Infirmary ) on Prospect Hill to the workhouse site.” The hospital (which was where the county council buildings are today ) had come under the control of the county council the previous year and it wisely decided that it should be closed and the workhouse developed as a central hospital to serve city and county. The Prospect Hill unit was phased out and ultimately closed in December 1924.

The transfer to the Central Hospital was made in an orderly fashion with the general and tuberculosis patients moved first and the surgical services retained on Prospect Hill. This was necessary because of the necessity to refurbish the pauper section of the old workhouse to function as a hospital and to repair damage done by the previous military occupations.

The infirmary section of the old workhouse, which had been known as The Galway Union Hospital since 1893, was also refurbished, part of it to accommodate the long stay patients and part of it to serve as a nurses’ home.

The main block of the workhouse was virtually reconstructed with new roof and floors; the large dormitory, on each side of the three floors, was divided into a long ward and two side wards with kitchen, bathroom, and lavatories, making a total of six wards and 12 small wards on three floors. The division into male and female sides was continued, with males on the north side and females on the south.

Surgical cases were nursed on the top floor with the operating suite in the middle, consisting of two theatres with a complete glass roof, anaesthetic and sterilising rooms. A small ward on each side of the middle floor was designated for pulmonary TB cases. A small casualty department, a combined X-ray and physiotherapy department, offices, and staff room were provided on the ground floor. Accommodation was allocated for resident medical staff on the first floor and for students in the attic. A lift was installed.

Our photograph shows the Central Hospital in the 1930s. The foundation stone for the new Regional Hospital was laid by the Minister for Health, Noel Browne, in 1949. The main block of the new hospital was located to the rear of the old Central, and involved the demolition of the rear section of the old hospital. The first patients in the new hospital were admitted to the paediatric section in 1955.

All of the above information is contained in a fascinating book entitled Galway: A Medico-Social History by James P Murray, available in good bookshops.

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