About St. Vincents
The History of St. Vincent's Hospital
Above: Horse drawn Ambulance at front of St Vincent's Hospital
After four-and-a-half months at sea, the Francis Spaight sailed through the heads of Sydney Harbour on 31 December 1838 and cast anchor off shore.
Amongst those on board were five nuns from the Order of the Sisters of Charity, founded in Dublin in 1815 by Mary Aikenhead. The Sisters had been sent to the new colony at the request of Bishop John Bede Polding. Mother Mary John Cahill, Mother Xavier Williams, Mother de Sales O’Brien, Sister Baptist De Lacy and Sister Lawrence Cator were the first religious community of women to come to Australia. Their mission was simple: to care for the poor and needy within the Sisters of Charity framework of compassion and care.
Soon after their arrival, the Sisters began working with female convicts at the ‘Female Factory’ in Parramatta and later with male inmates in the gaols in Parramatta and Darlinghurst. They also ministered to the Institute of Destitute Children at Waverley, the Refuge for Women at Carters’ Barracks, at six Catholic schools and later the Catholic Orphan School at Parramatta. When convict transportation to Sydney ended, the Sisters continued visiting patients in the Sydney Infirmary while raising funds to open their own hospital. St Vincent’s Hospital opened at ‘Tarmons’ in Potts Point in 1857.
Initially an outpatient hospital, a women’s ward opened on 4 November 1857 and a men’s ward followed in April 1858. Supported by generous donations from the local community, St Vincent’s
Hospital thrived and the Sisters soon had to begin planning for a larger hospital. Later, St Vincent’s Hospital was relocated to its current site in Darlinghurst in 1870.
Above: St Vincent's Hospital Tarmons 1857
Today St Vincent’s Hospital is one of Australia’s leading teaching, research and acute care hospitals with a world-renowned reputation in cardiac care, HIV/AIDS medicine, lung and bone marrow transplantation and cancer services.
Among many firsts, St Vincent’s conducted Australia’s first heart transplant in 1968 and the first bone marrow transplant in 1975. The first case of AIDS was diagnosed in Australia at St Vincent’s Hospital in 1983.
Part of the St Vincent’s Darlinghurst Campus which comprises Sacred Heart Hospice, St Vincent’s Private, St Vincent’s Clinic, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, St Vincent’s Hospital attracts leading specialists, many of whom work across multiple facilities in clinical care, teaching and research.
In addition to providing core health services, St Vincent’s Hospital has a unique impact on the local community it serves, particularly in relation to providing outreach to the poor and marginalised. Guided by the mission and values of the Sisters of Charity, the Hospital supports some of Sydney’s most disadvantaged through a range of community programs and other outreach services.
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