The need for a private hospital in Dunedin became apparent in the late 1920s. Local doctors indicated their interest and public demand was assured. Bishop Whyte heeded their appeal and recognised the advantages of having a Catholic hospital in the city. A request was therefore made to the Sisters of Mercy to open such a facility and in 1930 they committed themselves to the project and began fund raising.
In 1932 Sisters M. Bertrand Carroll and Vianney Phelan left for Mater Misericordiae Hospital in Brisbane to undertake their nursing training, and post-registration experience in hospital management.
Meanwhile back in Dunedin the Sisters purchased the home of Mr. P. Halsted at 19 Royal Terrace. They took possession on 1st November 1935 and the house was remodeled to accommodate twenty-four beds and one operating theatre.
The new Mater Misericordiae Hospital was blessed on 9th February 1936 and the first patient was admitted on 16th July 1936. The building next to the hospital, ‘Avenal Flats’ at 25 Royal Terrace was purchased in 1936 and became the convent and nurses home. This hospital was closed in 1969 with the transfer to the current site in Maori Hill.
The original staff of Mater Misericordiae Hospital:
Back row: Belle Gleeson, Sisters Damian Wood, Dorothea Leonard, Alexius Kerr, Brendan Robinson, Elizabeth Petre and Mary O'Carroll.
Front row: Sisters Bertrand Carroll, Ignatius Bradley and Vianney Phelan
“Within a short space of time the Mater Hospital fully justified its foundation, but with its accommodation limited to 24 beds there was always a lengthy waiting list of patients seeking admission. The popularity of the hospital was unquestioned and it did much to break down religious prejudice when doctors, patients and their families witnessed for themselves the selless dedication the Sisters brought to their care of the sick.”
(Sister Stephanie Glenn, 1996, Divide and Share, pg 109)
In 1958 the Otago Hospital Board asked the Sisters to staff Port Chalmers Maternity Home. It was decided they would do this for 9 months, giving the Board time to find appropriate lay staff.
“The Sisters continued to staff the hospital, not for the stipulated nine months, but for eight years, and during that time they earned the admiration and respect of all, not only for the thoroughness of their nursing skills but also for the sensitivity of their approach to those in their care.”
(Sister Stephanie Glenn, 1996, pg 112-3)
Within a short time it became evident that the hospital needed to be extended and it was decided that a purpose built hospital would offer many advantages. Marinoto House was purchased in 1958 and the grounds provided the setting for the new 64-bed hospital. S.M Bertrand Carroll (Matron) and S.M. Aidan Adamson (Administrator) visited the United States and United Kingdom, to inform the design. The architects were Stephenson and Turner, and construction undertaken by W.H. Naylor & Co. When Mater Misericordiae Hospital Burwood Ave opened in 1969, seventeen Sisters were assisted by lay staff to continue the work of caring for the sick.
The new hospital extended the operating capacity through its 3 new theatres. This was supported by a new centralized sterilizing department and an X-Ray machine on site. The first floor was dedicated to surgical care while medical care for the elderly occurred on the second floor.
In the late 1980s it was time to plan for the future. In 1987 S.M. Lucia Hartstonge and S.M. Chanel Hardiman went on a fact-finding tour of nine private hospitals on the east coast of Australia. Their experience shaped the decision to build suites of rooms for consultants, in the wing known as Marinoto Clinic, which also incorporated Radiology and Laboratory services. At the same time there was a realignment of the entrance to its current position at Newington Avenue. In 1989 the hospital also changed its name to Mercy Hospital, in line with the trend of Mercy Hospitals in New Zealand.
The Sisters of Mercy continue to take an active interest in the life and work of Mercy Hospital. While there are fewer Sisters working in the Hospital Sister M. Chanel Hardiman continues to provide Pastoral Care to patients and their families. Sister M. Lucia Hartstonge is actively involved in the provision of Charitable Outreach and Sisters Lucia Hartstonge and Sue France are members of the Board of Directors.
In 2006, with changes in technology and models of care, nearly half of the patients were day-stay and required a different type of facility than stay-over patients. To accommodate this clinical shift the Day Stay Unit was opened in July 2008. In an associated redevelopment of the Theatre Suite a sixth operating theatre was added and the Central Sterilizing Supplies Department and Post-anaesthetic Care Unit were upgraded. The stay-over ward on the first floor was extended to accommodate 42 patients with an emphasis on providing more single rooms. Baker Garden Architects provided the design for the project that was built by Naylor Love.
To ensure our facilities are able to meet current and future requirements the car parking will be extended and additional suites provided for consultants. We are also considering the best way to utilize the space in Marinoto House.