Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Melbourne's Homeopathic Hospital...or Prince Henry's Hospital, take your pick.

 This post is due to a niggling curiosity of mine and a question or 3 from Andrew.

Yes, for a whole 66 years Marvellous Melbourne was blessed with a Homeopathic Hospital, from the moment a free Melbourne Homeopathic Dispensary opened in 1869 until the hospital itself was closed in 1934.
Quackery, did I hear you say?
Nay, good reader, twas none of the sort!
The Homeopathic Hospital was created and run by many dedicated professionals, as the Colony of Port Phillip had a great many Homeopathic doctors as residents since the gold rushes of the 1850's.

Many homeopathic doctors settled in Victoria and soon had large, successful practices, the majority choosing Collins St (Melbourne's equivalent of London's Harley St) to hang their shingle.
The 1861 census showed that out of 592 medical practitioners only 61 were medical doctors with the rest being midwives and homeopaths.
Logic dictates there wouldn't be so many if it was a load of old cow pats.

In 1855 the first Homeopathic Dispensary was established at 85 Collins Street and, after several changes of ownership, it moved to 90 Collins Street - obviously staying in the medical precinct where all the homeopaths had their rooms.
A group of homeopaths got together and had a meeting on October 30th, 1869 where they decided to establish a dispensary to treat people for free (goodness, imagine that!); they didn't muck about as they had rented a house at 153 Collins St for the Melbourne Homeopathic Dispensary and opened it's doors by November 22.

The year 1874 saw that the Homeopathic Committee was filled by 15 very influential Melbourne women who agitated for a homeopathic hospital; never underestimate the power of women for they not only got the Melbourne Homeopathic Dispensary on their side but the good ladies got themselves a Govt grant of land in St Kilda Road.
These ladies were making history; while the permanent hospital was being built, a temporary one was run from a 3 storey house at 17 Spring St which consisted of 14 beds and an Outpatients Dept with it being the very first homeopathic hospital in the Southern Hemisphere. (See above for not underestimating the power of women).

The foundation stone of the hospital was laid by the Gov of Victoria in 1882 and opened later that year.
Want to see what an architectural beauty, in style, grace and form, that once welcomed the sick through its doors?
Click HERE...or HERE...or HERE.
Yes, it was gorgeous. *sigh*

In 1889 yet another typhoid epidemic swept Melbourne (or Smellbourne as it came to be known before a decent sewerage system was built) with almost all of the hosiptals within Melbourne swamped with ill patients.
The Melbourne Hospital (a "traditional" medical hospital) treated 351 patients with a mortality rate of 22%, while the Homeopathic Hospital treated 408 with a mortality rate less than half of the Melbourne Hosptial's, being 10%
But by then the Homeopathic Hospital was having difficulty attracting new doctors. Many came from England - and their 5 year degree was automatically recognised throughout Oz - but those from America - with their 4 year degree - were not allowed to register and soon upped sticks and left.
Although the Medical Board disregarded this archiac rule, and generously allowed a whole 1 homeopath per year to be registered if they came from Boston or New York, the word had got out internationally and very few American homeopathic doctors came to Oz.
The Victorian Medical Board drove another nail in the Homeopathic Hospital's coffin by writing up a "code of ethics" in 1906 which banned outright any medical doctor from working with a homeopathic collegue.

Making history again, Dr Janet Cooper became the first female doctor at the Homeopathic Hospital in 1917. She later went on to become the first female Mayor of South Melbourne and was awarded an OBE for her extensive welfare work.

1924 saw the death knell tolling as allopathic doctors - traditional medical doctors - allowed to practice at the Homeopathic Hospital due to a drastic shortage of those who had homeopathic training.
As the Homeopathic Hospital had previously had no use for labs or equipment such as X-ray machines, the medical doctors kicked up a fuss and the Homeopathic Hospital was no more.
By Royal decree from King George V himself it became titled as Prince Henry's Hospital, a traditional medical hospital.

It was, originally, to have been named Prince George's Hospital but the Prince George of the time got himself shackled in engagement so his brother Prince Henry (Duke of Gloucester) popped along to Melbourne in his place, opened the Shrine of Remembrance and his papa decreed that the hospital be named after him.

That beautiful ediface of the Homeopathic Hospital was *gag* demolished to make room for THIS.
While it was not as pretty as its predecessor, I've been told by many a nurse who worked there that the atmosphere at Prince Henry's was friendly, supportive and a great place to work.

Sadly, it lasted only 60 years, just 6 years shy of the Homeopathic Hospital lifetime, being torn down for more damn roadways in 1994.


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