I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Meath Hospital is one of the oldest, and in some respects, one of the most famous medical institutions in Dublin. Originally it was opened on the Coombe in 1753, where it was intended to afford medical assistance to the working population in that neighbourhood. It was moved to Skinner's Alley in 1757; to Meath Street in 1760 and to Earl Street in 1766. In 1770 the erection of a new building was commenced which now forms part of the Coombe Lying-in Hospital. In 1774 another hospital was erected by private subscriptions of £2,000, which served as the county infirmary and since 1867 financial grants have been made to the hospital by the Dublin Corporation. In 1816, the present site in Heytesbury Street was taken. It formerly belonged to Dean Swift and was called the Dean's Vineyard. On the 24th December, 1882, the present hospital was opened and £6,000 towards the cost of the building was a gift from a Thomas Pleasants. The County Dublin granted £5,000 and donations and subscriptions defrayed the balance of the building expenses. Since that date, 1882, the hospital has continued to serve the sick poor of Dublin unceasingly and the generations of students and nurses who have passed through its wards have brought the medical fame of Dublin and of the Meath Hospital throughout the length and breadth of the civilised world.
Looking back over the work of those who gave their services to the various Dublin hospitals, under conditions far different from those of to-day, I consider that we must record our keen appreciation of the services rendered. Some of the leading men of the then famous Old Dublin School of Medicine were attached to the Meath Hospital. Sir Philip Crampton, William Stokes, R.J. Graves and John Cheyne were amongst the many who served on the staff with distinction. The first member of the illustrious Stokes family to become associated with the hospital was Whitley Stokes, who was appointed physician to the hospital in the year 1818. He it was of whom Wolfe Tone wrote: "He was the very best man that I have ever known." Apart from his medical career, he was a prominent member of the United Irishmen prior to 1792. His more famous son, William Stokes, was attached to the hospital from 1826 to 1875, and he, together with his colleague, Robert Graves, first instituted the system of clinical instruction at the bedside, which revolutionised medical teaching throughout the world and brought well-merited fame, not only to the Dublin School of Medicine but to the Meath Hospital. It may indeed be said that Stokes laid the solid foundations for all our present knowledge of the heart, while Graves was the father of all modern glandular therapy.
In more recent years the Meath Hospital has not failed to keep its position in the forefront of Dublin medicine and, together with St. Laurence's Hospital, was amongst the first of the Dublin institutions to start intensive specialisation within it walls. It would be impossible to enumerate in detail the development of the Meath Hospital throughout the years, but the hospital has invariably been at the disposal of the sick poor of Dublin, and to-day I am pleased to record that the tradition of this hospital, in the matter of medical science, has been very definitely maintained by a fully qualified medical staff specialising in various treatments.
No provision was made in the Act of 1816 for a register of electors, that is of Governors or Governesses. This omission is rectified in the Bill. Under the Act of 1816 payment of a subscription of £2 2s. 0d. immediately prior to the annual meeting—and it might be that the payment of £2 2s. 0d. was made while the annual meeting was in progress—qualified the subscriber to vote for the election of members who would act during the year as the committee controlling the hospital. Originally, and down to the passing of the Local Government Act, 1898, it was prescribed that an annual general meeting should be held at which the election of the joint committee members took place. By an Order under the Act of 1898 the election of the joint committee was ordered to take place triennially. It might be that a person to qualify as a governor and to be entitled to vote, might subscribe £2 2s. 0d. only in the year of the election provided the subscription was paid prior to the date of the election.
There is no provision for holding a ballot under the law at present. This Bill provides:
"(1) That a person to be qualified as an elector for the control of the hospital must have contributed since 1944 £10 10s. 0d. to the hospital;
(2) that a register of electors be compiled and that a person must be qualified to vote;
(3) that each elector gets an opportunity of registering his vote by post."
Two prohibitions in the Act of 1816 are repealed—the limitation regarding acquisition of land and the exclusion of graduates of any medical school other than the College of Surgeons and Physicians. There may be some difference of opinion amongst Deputies regarding some sections of the Bill, notably that requiring the payment of a £10 subscription, but I think that whatever little difficulties present themselves in that way will be overcome during the Committee Stages.