This article examines hospital provision in Ireland during the early twentieth century. It examines attempts by the newly independent Irish Free State to reform and de-stigmatise medical relief in former workhouse infirmaries. Such reforms were designed to move away from nineteenth century welfare regimes which were underpinned by principles of deterrence. The reform initiated in independent Ireland - the first attempted break-up of the New Poor Law in Great Britain or Ireland - was partly successful. Many of the newly named County and District Hospitals provided solely for medical cases and managed to dissociate such health care provision from the relief of poverty. However, some hospitals continued to act as multifunctional institutions and provided for various categories including the sick, the aged and infirm, 'unmarried mothers' and 'harmless lunatics'. Such institutions often remained associated with the relief of poverty. This article also examines patient fee-payment and outlines how fresh terms of entitlement and means-testing were established. Such developments were even more pronounced in voluntary hospitals where the majority of patients made a financial contribution to their treatment. The article argues that the ability to pay at times determined the type of provision, either voluntary or rate-aided, available to the sick. However, it concludes that the clinical condition of patients often determined whether they entered a more prestigious voluntary hospital or the former workhouse. Although this article concentrates on two Irish case studies, County Kerry and Cork City; it is conceptualised within wider developments with particular reference to the British context.
- Hospital Provision, Poor Law Infirmaries, Entitlement, Irish Free State, Inter-war Healthcare