In 1908, the National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh, or St Mary’s Convalescent Home for Sick Children as it was known then, was established by the Sisters of Charity. For over a century, the Hospital has adapted to meet ever-changing healthcare demands. We have treated diseases of poverty and asthma among other conditions, however, orthopaedic medicine remains our primary focus.
Today, world-class expertise, state-of-the-art surgical facilities and comprehensive services enable us to treat more patients and provide better care. Despite the considerable expansion, the Hospital retains an intimate charm that leaves a positive and lasting impression on patients, families, visitors and the many people who have worked here over the years. As we enter our second century, we hope to preserve the altruistic ethos of our founders and the unique and beautiful culture that makes our Hospital special.
1908 ST MARY’S CONVALESCENCE HOME OPENS
Cappagh House was the former residence of Sir Richard Martin, 1st Baronet of Cappagh and his wife, Lady Mary Martin. Sir Richard, a High Sheriff of Dublin, died in 1901 at the age of 70, and as he did not have children during his lifetime, his title became extinct. On her passing in 1907, Lady Martin bequeathed the house and lands at Cappagh to the Sisters of Charity.
“Cappagh” derives from “Ceapach” or tillage plot, and, this aptly named estate enjoyed a magnificent country setting at that time. Inspired by the estate’s rustic charm and proximity to Dublin, the Sisters of Charity decided to transform the residence into a convalescent home for sick children.
In July 1908, St Mary’s Convalescent Home opened it’s doors to receive patients from Temple Street Children’s Hospital. Many suffered from poverty-related illnesses (Ricketts, scurvy, poliomyelitis and tuberculosis), and congenital and acquired orthopaedic conditions, and required significant convalescence and care.
During the 1920’s St Mary’s Convalescent Home began a long tradition of medical education, establishing a training school for Nursery Nurses.
Inspired by a Swiss Clinic at Leysin, the Mother Rectress, Sr. Polycarp, transformed Cappagh into an Open Air Hospital and embraced a radically new approach to medicine – Heliotherapy. This treatment advocates the use of sunlight and fresh air to promote healing. Patients were brought out onto verandas and into gardens to aid their recovery.
At that time, Sr Polycarps’ good friend, Mr Henry MacAuley, an accomplished Orthopaedic Surgeon, provided her with excellent counsel and is said to have encouraged her to undergo orthopaedic training to benefit the Hospital and its’ patients.
Relentless fundraising by the Sisters and the generosity of philanthropists enabled St Mary’s to reach a 60-bed capacity by 1921, and the Hospital was regarded as one of the most excellent clinics in Europe.
Children spent considerable time in the care of Cappagh, and in 1920, a school was established to cater to the educational needs of young patients. In 1923 the School received recognition from The National Board of Education and later expanded its’ remit, by offering technical classes to patients of 14 years and older. At its peak in 1966, the School employed six full-time teachers and had 120 pupils on its’ roll. The last full-time teacher retired from the Hospital in 2005.
In 1935, dedicated living quarters were introduced enabling the Sisters to work and live on campus. Additionally, a tennis court and a camogie field were added to the delight of staff members. During this period, excursions and holidays were organised for long-stay patients and Cappagh enjoyed many famous visitors to the Hospital, including the celebrated Chipperfields’ Circus.
The decade from 1945 – 1955 saw a decline in diseases of poverty and a reduction in the admission of children.
Mr Paddy MacAuley (1924-2006), the nephew to Senior Surgeon Mr Henry MacAuley, was appointed to the Visiting Staff at Cappagh in 1955. Working with paediatric patients, Mr McAuley was a pioneer in the surgical correction of unequal limb length. His arrival greatly enhanced the Hospital’s orthopaedic and surgical capability. Mr MacAuley worked at the hospital until his retirement in 1989, some 34 years later. During this time, he inspired colleagues, medical students and nurses, and performed life-altering surgeries for many young patients.
In 1959 Sir Joseph Eugene Butler established the country’s first Occupational Therapy Department at the Hospital. And later in 1961, a modern operating theatre opened at Cappagh heralding a new era for the Hospital.
In 1963, at the request of the Department of Health, a 20-bed dedicated unit established for the treatment of children with asthma. Consequently from 1965 onwards, Cappagh began to cater to increased numbers of adult patients. The proliferation of motor vehicles in Ireland and a rise in automobile accidents resulted in higher demand for reconstructive surgery. And in 1966, the Hospital employed a medical Social Worker to provide emotional and practical support for patients. 1969 saw St Joseph’s ward replaced by a diagnostic laboratory, comprising of reception, patient assessment area and bio-engineering workshop.
In September of 1969, Cappagh Hospital conducted the first joint replacement surgery in Ireland. A team, led by Orthopaedic Consultant Mr Joe Gallagher (1925-1993) completed the country’s’ first Charnley Hip Replacement surgery. Due to the high risk of infection, the female patient was admitted ten days before surgery and kept in isolation. This practice is in stark contrast to modern-day procedures, as patients can now avail of same-day hip-replacement surgery and discharge.
Mr Gallagher continued to work at the Hospital up to his retirement in 1991, having completed 32 years of service at Cappagh.
The inaugural hip replacement surgery of 1969 created a higher demand for Hospital services. Consequently, 68 hip replacement surgeries were carried out at Cappagh in 1970. This number continues to increase year on year, as the population and average-age profile increases and today the Hospital conducts more than 1,400 joint replacement surgeries annually.
In 1971, a Clean Air Flow System was installed in theatre to reduce the risk of infection. By the mid-1970s the Hospital had an impressive team of consultants and was one of seven hospitals to participate in Post Graduate education in Orthopaedic Surgical Training.
In 1975, this new centre of excellence hosted an orthopaedic conference for 50 of the worlds finest consultants in orthopaedic medicine. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Hospital introduced a new Hydrotherapy Department (1973), Orthotic Department and Laboratory. The existing operating theatre was redeveloped, and two new surgical theatres opened.
During the 1990s, Cappagh Hospital continued its’ commitment to education, by joining with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland to offer a Diploma in Orthopaedic Nursing and subsequently Higher Diploma in Nursing Studies (Orthopaedic Nursing).
Significant progress happened during this period. New Outpatients and Imaging Departments opened, and a Board of Management established. Furthermore, the Lady Martin Auditorium was officially opened by Brian Cowen, the then Minister for Health and Children. At the request of the Irish Government, The Hospital welcomed Bosnian patients and their families for treatment.
In addition, the National Bone Bank was established on-site in 1998, to facilitate bone donation for national supply. And the Laboratory at Cappagh was the first in the country to receive Clinical Pathology Accreditation (UK).
At the turn of the century, upgrade works continued at the Hospital. Patient and staff accommodation improved, and an MRI facility opened. The Orthotic Department extended in response to increased demand; the Medical Library overhauled, the Pre-Operative Assessment Clinic opened in the Outpatients Department and a High Dependency Unit was introduced in 2004.
The first Cappagh Arthoplasty Meeting convened in May 2001. And in 2005 Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital was the first public Hospital to receive full accreditation. That same year, the Cappagh Joint Register began recording essential data relating to joint replacement patients.
In 2008 the Hospital celebrated 100 years of service and a centenary book was compiled to mark the occasion. It gives the reader an incredible account of the hospitals rich history and a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the young patients of the hospital in the early 1900s. The book celebrates the enthusiasm and vision of the Sisters of Charity who founded the Hospital, and the dedication of those who have worked at the hospital over the years.
In 2012, The Specialist Rehabilitation Unit opened at the Hospital, to provide services for patients requiring a period of rehabilitation following an acute medical episode.
In 2018, a comprehensive strategy (2018-2020) was formulated to realise the Hospitals Vision for 2021.
Consequently, the Hospital is a hive of activity. The former convent is renovating to make way for new educational and training facilities, an administration centre and a dedicated Outpatient Department for Cappagh Kids. A new Admissions Department is under construction to the lefthand side of the Hospital reception and a shop/cafe will open on campus in the coming months.
The Cappagh Hospital Foundation hopes to achieve fundraising targets to purchase a new CT machine for the Hospital in 2020, and plans for a High Dependency Unit and family room, are in train.
The hospital rebrand project is ongoing and new wayfinding system and literature will introduce shortly.
Our 500+ brilliant people continue to work collaboratively to improve services for patients, and the Hospital is committed to supporting and progressing their great ideas to improve access to healthcare, enhance the patient experience and deliver effective treatments and positive outcomes.