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St Vincent's Hospital

Located at the south-western corner of Fitzroy and bounded by Victoria Parade and Nicholson Street, St Vincent's Hospital was founded in 1893 by the Sisters of Charity, an Irish Catholic religious order invited from Sydney by Archbishop Thomas Carr. Led by the 'amiable despot' Mother Berchmans Daly, as founding mother rectress, it grew by 1905 from 14 to some 100 beds.

Mother Berchmans returned to Sydney in 1920 but continued fundraising. Government help and the credit patiently extended by the hospital's bankers enabled St Vincent's to grow astonishingly by the 1930s in buildings, services and numbers of patients to become a well-established part of Melbourne's public hospitals system, with a full range of medical and surgical specialties, a nursing school and a clinical school associated with the University of Melbourne.

After a period of stasis during World War II, the hospital prospered again from the 1950s to the 1980s, being particularly well supported by Melbourne's Italian community. There were large building programs; the University of Melbourne association was strengthened by the establishment of professional chairs in medicine and surgery, and a flourishing group of medical and surgical specialties was joined by an institute of medical research. By the 1960s, however, the core of religious sisters was diminishing as vocations to their congregation declined.

By the 1990s the hospital was incorporated with a board of directors, although still part of the Catholic health-care system, as a Sisters of Charity hospital. In recent years a large new in-patient care and services building has been erected on the northern part of the site, and the private wing amalgamated with Mercy Private in 1998, while St Vincent's public has been linked with other institutions to make up St Vincent's Health.

Bryan Egan

Egan, Bryan, Ways of a hospital: St Vincent's Melbourne 1890s-1990s, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 1993. Details