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ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT MARY McALEESE FOR THE OPENING OF “WINIFRED DICKSON SUITE”

ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT MARY McALEESE FOR THE OPENING OF “WINIFRED DICKSON SUITE” AT THE COOMBE HOSPITAL ON THURSDAY 2 APRIL, 1998

As Patron of the Coombe, I am particularly happy to have the opportunity to visit the hospital today and I’m very grateful to Gemma Hussey, for inviting me to open this new facility at the Hospital. I'm also relieved that I am here as a visitor rather than a patient.

The Coombe Hospital has been a major part of the life in Ireland – and particularly of Dubliners - since as far back as 1826 - you could say that it has been the start of life for many generations. I’m not sure if Biddy Mulligan was brought into the world at the Coombe but I’m told that Michelle Smith was born here and, in all probability, took her first dip here. Could there be something special in the Coombe Water! I by contrast was confined to the bathroom of the RVH maternity for crying too much. Since the Census of 1821 put the population of Ireland at nearly seven million Ireland has clearly changed a lot. The Coombe itself has seen many changes both inside and outside. In fact, the hospital was moved from the heart of the Liberties in 1967 to its present location and was state-of-the-art thirty years ago.

Importantly though, the Coombe has kept pace with developments in technology and practices and is in a constant state of change. The developments over the years led to the hospital being renamed in 1993 – from the Coombe Lying-in Hospital to the Coombe Women’s Hospital to reflect the wider scope of services at the hospital. Recent investment has brought about quite a number of changes during the last 6 years in particular - with three operating theatres fully equiped with the latest technology and a theatre for emergency caesarean sections – new facilities for day-care patients – modernisation of the labour ward – the introduction of individual birthing suites – refurbishment of the Outpatients Department – renovation of wards – a new endoscopy training centre – and new restaurant and car parking facilities - all evidence of a thriving hospital determined to provide a high level of excellence in its care of patients.

The services available at the Coombe have widened to provide a comprehensive range of gynaecological help for women coping with menopause or needing treatment for cervical pre-cancer – for couples dealing with a miscarriage or who face the lonely heartbreak of infertility – and for adolescents. The hospital is also the first women’s healthcare facility to provide an Internet facility – giving access to information on such things as hospital services - patient information leaflets –annual clinical reports – academic publications – and, interestingly, a calculator to advise parents on the expected date of delivery.

This latest facility that we’re formally opening today – the Winifred Dickson Suite – comprises a comprehensive scan room for use with patients who have problems in early pregnancy – and for gynaecological diagnoses such as ovarian cysts. The suite also has a new ultrasound facility which was introduced last year for the first time in Ireland. It is an alternative to the two standard procedures currently used for fallopian tube testing and can be performed as an outpatient procedure without anaesthetics. Appropriately, the suite is called after a lady who herself broke new ground in 1893 - when she was the first woman elected as Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland - and again in 1895 when she was the first woman appointed Assistant Master of the Coombe. It seems though, that the then Board had reservations about a lady taking on this arduous role and took a while to confirm her appointment! Thankfully things have changed a lot since then – we now have an excellent woman Chairperson of the Board - and now we’re even let run for the office of President!

In declaring the Winifred Dickson Suite open, I’d like to take this opportunity to pay a warm tribute to the Board of Management - and to the Master and all the staff at the hospital for doing so much for women and infants and for keeping the Coombe at the front row in delivering the comprehensive range of services available here. It has been a pleasure to come here today and to see how much you are doing and to take this opportunity to give recognition to the many who have given their commitment and energy over the last one hundred and seventy two years.