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Jim’s Australiana Spot – 2UE - July 3, 2016

The RPA Hospital

In 1868 the Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Kent and Earl of Ulster and second son of Queen Victoria, was on a world tour on the steam frigate HMS Galatea, with Australian ports of call at Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane, as well as Sydney.

After visiting Tasmania, he arrived in Sydney on 21 January 1868. Here, he received a most enthusiastic welcome, and many events were organised in his honour. He then spent a week in Brisbane, before returning to Sydney. Despite rumours of possible sectarian strife, he agreed to attend a picnic at Clontarf, a popular picnicking spot, on 12 March. The picnic had been organised as a fund raiser for the Sailors Home. During the event, an Irishman who had suffered considerable mental illness  attempted to assassinate the prince. Although O'Farrell fired his pistol at close range, the bullet, on striking the prince's back, glanced off the ribs, inflicting only a slight wound. O'Farrell only narrowly escaped lynching by the crowd, and was immediately arrested. The prince was nursed by Lucy Osburn the newly arrived Lady Superintendent of Sydney Hospital.

This was a time of simmering sectarian tension in the colonies, between Irish Catholics and non-Catholics. Even before the shooting at Clontarf, Australians were aware of 'Fenian terrorism' in England, from reports in newspapers. On the Prince's visit to Melbourne, there had been a shooting incident between Orange and Catholic factions, as well as a riot at a free public banquet.

The events that followed the assassination attempt at Clontarf included an outpouring of prejudice and racism towards Catholics and Irish. Many public meetings were held around the country with nearly 20,000 people attending a meeting in Sydney the day after the shooting. By the following week, there were daily 'indignation meetings' everywhere. At a time when Britain was still referred to as 'home', many Australians felt that the scandal had wounded their national pride.

Anti-Irish sentiment boiled over even in Parliament: the New South Wales government passed the Treason Felony Act on 18 March, making it an offence to refuse to drink to the Queen's health, and tried unsuccessfully to uncover a conspiracy. Clemency for O'Farrell was refused, despite the prince's own proposal to refer the sentence on O'Farrell to the Queen.

O'Farrell was convicted of attempted murder, despite his evident mental instability, and hanged on 21 April. The prince, who had recovered completely by the end of March, left for England on the Galatea in early April and arrived on 26 June.

It was only two years after its establishment in 1882 that the hospital accepted its first medical students from the Medical School of the University of Sydney. Since then, the hospital has benefited from this close relationship at the teaching, research and clinical levels. For example, it is the only public hospital in Australia to offer a comprehensive revision course for the RACP written exam for basic physician trainees.

RPA's staff of over 4,000 provides the largest number of in-patient treatments in the state, almost 500,000 out-patient treatments, 45,000 adult and paediatric emergency department patients and delivers 4,000 babies each year. With around 50 percent of all admissions being district services, RPA treats more public patients than any other hospital in the state.

Within RPA itself, four clinical sections provide specialty clinical services: Division of Medicine, Division of Surgery, Division of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Division of Diagnostic Service. In addition, a range of Allied Health services are also provided, including clinical psychology, psychiatry, health promotion, nutrition and dietetics, orthotics, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, clinical pharmacy, podiatry, speech pathology, social work and volunteer service.


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