Sydney Homœopathic Hospital

  • Date Established:
    1902
    1915 (relocated)
  • State:
    New South Wales
  • Suburb/Town:
    Redfern
    Glebe (relocated)
 
EARLY PROPOSALS & PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES 
 

In 1858, Sydney’s first free homœopathic dispensary was established. By the time of the third Annual General Meeting, however, the Dispensary was struggling, in part because of financial difficulties. It was felt that some problems could be resolved if a ward could be established within the Sydney Hospital or Infirmary, as the government met half the costs of such charitable institutions. As direct approaches to the Hospital had failed, supporters campaigned to secure government backing instead. In 1863, three petitions were submitted to the Legislative Assembly, requesting that patients of institutions which received government funds should be granted the option of homœopathic treatment from the institution if they so desired. Whilst homœopathy had its influential supporters within the Assembly, the proposal did not have sufficient numbers to win the day.

 

Sir William Windeyer, politician and judge, took part in these efforts to secure a ward in one of the Sydney hospitals. As he stated in 1892:

 

This was asked not as a concession, but as a right. The professors of homœopathy argue that when the taxes are used to support public institutions they are entitled to their fair share of the benefits to be derived therefrom. This, they assert, they do not get. When going to allopathic hospitals they are forced to accept a system of treatment obnoxious to them and in which they have no confidence. This proposition was favourably entertained by some of the Ministers of the day and discussed in the House; after which discussion it was referred to the Government medical advisers, allopathic of course, and, it is needless to say, was shelved, as the report upon the subject was, as might have been expected, adverse. Homœopathic practitioners have again and again challenged this kind of test of their claims, usually with a like result, and are therefore complelled to assert themselves by establishing independent hospitals, dispensaries, and homes for the treatment of their cases.

 

Once again, in late 1893 and early 1894, letters to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald proposed that separate wards of the Sydney Hospital "should be appropriated for dealing with cases upon homœopathic and allopathic principles respectively."

 

The Sydney Hospital is an institution supported by public funds, and, seeing that medicine is, at the best, only an experimental science, why should one school of practitioners monopolise the whole of the building? ... The diligent, patient, and unprejudiced study of observed facts is the manifest demand of the times ...

 

In the light of facts presented comparing the costs, lengths of stay and outcomes of the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital and Melbourne's Alfred Hospital, the writer concluded that homœopathic treatment had safer and better results , and that the cost of hospital maintnance was distinctly in favour of homœopathy. Therefore a wing in the Sydney Hospital should be set aside for the treatment of cases on homœopathic principles.

 

Interestingly, homœopath Dr John Maffey thought that such an arrangement would be undesirable. He believed that it would be much better and result in much less friction if homœopathic treatment could be provided in a separate institution, properly arranged, than in the Sydney Hospital, "or any other place dominated by the self-styled "orthodox" practitioners..."

 

Where homœopathy has been adopted, as it has been in a few cases in English Union districts and workhouses, the nearest approach to the Australian benevolent asylums, the guardians, mostly keen business men, have not been slow to appreciate the money-saving effected thereby, but also, what is of infinitely more import to the general public, that diseases treated homœopathically recover in less time than by any other method. Truly may we claim the motto so long found on the cover of the British Medical Journal of Homœopathy (the eldest medical quarterly published in Great Britain), "Safely, quickly, and pleasantly".

 
 
hosphom-sydney

Sydney Homœopathic Hospital

 

(Photograph from “Hospitals & Sanatoriums of the Homœopathic Schools of Medicine” – the Council on Medical Education of the American Institute of Homœopathy, 2nd Ed, 1916 )

 

LATER PROPOSAL & ESTABLISHMENT

 

It was in 1895 that Dr Richard Wallace gave a lecture before The Assistant Chemists’ Association of New South Wales, recommending the establishment of a homœopathic hospital in Sydney – “the only city with over 300,000 inhabitants which has not one". The lecture was held at Fisher’s Homœopathic Pharmacy at 337 George Street, Sydney.

 

However, it was not until 1902 that this proposal came to fruition. On 20 June 1902 a preliminary meeting was held, of “gentlemen favourable to the establishment of a Homœopathic Hospital in Sydney”. G.S. Campbell was appointed as Provisional Secretary, and on 27 June issued a letter to arrange a General Meeting of “all interested in this movement”, to be held at the Board Room, Vickery's Chambers, 78 Pitt Street. The meeting was to be on 2 July at 8pm. The business of the meeting was “to inaugurate the movement and to pass resolutions in support of it and elect Officers and a sub-committee to carry out the objects in view”.

 

John Feild Deck(1835 – 1929) was a well-known Sydney homœopathic physician who was instrumental in the establishment of the Sydney Homœopathic Hospital. In 1902 he wrote a  Circular entitled Proposal for the establishment of a Homœopathic Hospital in Sydney. In it, Deck pointed out that Melbourne, Hobart and Launceston all had successful homœopathic hospitals, as did most of the cities in the United States, where “… no city the size and importance of Sydney can be found, without the benefit of one or more Homœopathic Hospitals. And why should Sydney be behind the Sister Capital of the South  ….”

 

It is clear from the Circular that the initial aim was the permanent establishment of a Homœopathic Dispensary, with the hope that, “if sufficient interest is manifested, a Homœopathic Hospital fully equipped with modern appliances, may in time come [to] be an established fact in the City”.

 

‘This Institution will act as a centre for the propagation of the knowledge of homœopathy and will link together all who sympathise with its view and are anxious for its advance. Patients will be seen five days a week. It has been proposed to make a small charge for the medicines supplied to the patients, which will make the Institution to a certain extent self-supporting.’

 

The Hospital also required donations and subscriptions. In 1902 William Moore, a retired homœopath based at Lawson, donated money to help establish the Sydney Homœopathic Hospital. He later left monies for the Hospital in his will. The Hospital was founded in 1902 at 301 Cleveland Street, Redfern. The Acting Matron was Mrs Rutherford. The Matron in 1903 was Miss Katie J. Hopcraft, while in 1906 it was Nurse Husband.

 

Mr Justice Robert Darlow Pring, judge of the NSW Supreme Court, was appointed to be the first President of the Hospital Committee, a position he held for almost 20 years. His wife was also involved with the Hospital as one of the vice-presidents of the Ladies' Committee which ran various events, including an annual ball, to raise money for the Hospital. The Lady Mayoress was the president of the executive committee. In 1906 it was reported that Sir Harry Rawson, the State Governor, had consented to become the patron of the hospital.

 

The 1906 Fifth Annual Report for the Hospital stated that there had been a large increase in-patients and out-patients treated during the period "showing that the homœopathic treatment was being largely availed of and appreciated by the inhabitants of the city and suburbs". There were 4,227 attendances of out-patients for the year, compared with 3,221 for the previous year. The total number of patients (in-patients and out-patients) for the year was 1,274 compared with 1,062 for the previous year. 155 patients were treated in the wards during 1906. 132 operations were performed “some of them of a very serious character”. All surgical cases did well. Anaesthetics were administered 109 times.

 

It announced that “the Government has granted our long standing claim for the same treatment as is given to other Hospitals, viz., pound for pound on the amount raised by private subscriptions …” The Ladies’ Committee raised 128 pounds and 1 shilling from the Third Annual Ball, “which constitutes a record”. The revenue from all sources was less than expenditure by the amount of 6 pounds 9 shillings and 9 pence.

 

The park on the corner of Wigram Rd and Glebe Point Road was previously the site of the Sydney Hospital for Sick Children, founded in 1880. It was renamed the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in 1904 and moved to Camperdown in 1907. In 1915 the Sydney Homœopathic Hospital  moved to Glebe and took over this building, which was later demolished in 1968.

 

 

MEDICAL OFFICERS

 

Dr John Feild Deck received his medical training at St Thomas Hospital in London and at the University of St Andrews in 1862. After working in New Zealand (Invercargill Hospital) for a period, he arrived in Sydney in 1877 and became one of the most influential men in the advancement of homœopathy in Sydney. He became one of the Hospital’s Honorary Medical Officers, and continued in this capacity almost until his death in 1929, aged 94.

 

Dr George Henry Baring Deck was the son of Dr John Feild Deck. After gaining his M.B. at Sydney University in 1896, he was appointed as resident at the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital. He left at the end of the year and was appointed to the staff of the Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney. In 1906 he was listed as one of the Honorary Medical Officers of the Sydney Homœopathic Hospital.

 

Dr John Northcote Deck was the brother of George. He gained his M.B. from the University of Sydney in 1900. John was a Resident at the Melbourne Homœopathic Hospital from 1901 to 1904. In 1906 he was listed as one of the Honorary Medical Officers of the Sydney Homœopathic Hospital.

 

The annual report published in February 1929 reported that the honorary medical officers were Drs John Feild Deck (superintendent), G. H. Baring Deck, H. Leigh Deck, A. H. Marshall and J. M. Randall. Drs G. H. Baring Deck and H. Leigh Deck were also on the board of management.

 
 

LATER YEARS

 

The Hospital was increasingly used as a general community hospital, and it is believed that the use of homœopathic treatment within the Hospital had effectively ended by 1945. The last homœopath, Dr Leigh Feild Deck, retired in 1941. The hospital’s matron continued administering homœopathic treatment but left in 1945. However, the terms of William Moore’s will allowed the hospital to continue operating under the public hospital system provided a bed was always available for homœopathic treatment. The Central Sydney Area Health Services vetoed a proposal to use the accumulated funds in Moore’s bequest to have the hospital extended and modernised to include a homœopathic clinic and dispensary. The Hospital closed down in 1989.

 

The Australian Medical Faculty of Homœopathy lobbied the New South Wales health department to provide hospital facilities to satisfy the growing demand for homœopathic treatment. On August 1, 1990, a homœopathic outpatient clinic was opened at the nearby Balmain Hospital, which still operates today.

 
 

FURTHER INFORMATION

 

For further information about the early proposal in 1863, see: Armstrong, Barbara. Australia’s First Home-Grown Homœopath in Similia December 2007, Vol 19:2.

 

©   Barbara Armstrong      

       www.historyofhomeopathy.com.au

 

  • Created:
    Monday, 16 January 2006
  • Last modified:
    Wednesday, 03 December 2014