Mater Infirmorum Hospital

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Coordinates: 54°36′32″N 5°56′24″W / 54.609°N 5.940°W / 54.609; -5.940

Mater Infirmorum Hospital
Belfast Trust
Mater Infirmorum Hospital.png
Entrance to the hospital, Crumlin Road
Location 45-51 Crumlin Road, Belfast, BT14 6AB, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Care system Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland
Hospital type District General
Affiliated university Queens University
Emergency department Yes Accident & Emergency
Beds 236
Founded 1883
Website Belfast Trust
Lists Hospitals in Northern Ireland

The Mater Infirmorum Hospital, commonly known as The Mater is an acute hospital in Belfast, Northern Ireland and serves a population of over 200,000 people. It provides services to most of North Belfast and South Antrim, reaching as far as Glengormley, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey. It also provides a psychiatric service for North Belfast and West Belfast. The Trust[clarification needed] provides a wide range of services including acute In-patient, A&E, Day Procedures, Mental Illness and Maternity. The Latin word Mater is commonly pronounced both "matt-er" and "mae-ter" by residents of the city (the pronunciation does not denote anything about religion or political sympathies of the speaker) This has led to the phrase "You go to the maeter to find out what's the matter".


The Mater Infirmorum (Mother of the Sick) Hospital has been serving the people of Belfast since it admitted its first patients on 1 November 1883,[1] in premises on the Crumlin Road in Belfast, known as Bedeque House. It was initially founded by the Sisters of Mercy but has always treated patients without regard to class or creed. Between 1841 and 1891, the population of Belfast dramatically increased from 75,308 to 255,922. In 1895, the Bishop of Down and Connor Dr Patrick MacAlister arranged for expansion of the Mater Infirmorum Hospital with construction of a new building on Mountview Terrace.[1]

The hospital is situated in the middle of one of the more economically and socially deprived areas of Belfast, though not far from the city centre. It lies in the middle of lesser well-off populations which for years had been distinguished from each other as having predominantly either Roman Catholic or Protestant. The Mater Hospital has often been caught up in community tensions since the 1970s. It draws patients and staff from all areas of the population and maintains close links with local people. Belfast has been a popular destination in recent years for foreign nurses to come and settle and work for short and long periods and for life.

The main hospital opened in 1900. In 1909 the Mater Hospital was officially recognised as a university teaching hospital and is still associated with and receives students from the Queen's University Medical School.[2]

The hospital required a major refurbishment to bring it up to modern standards.[when?] As the first phase of a modernisation programme, a new ward block and day procedures unit was built at the rear of the present block, at a cost of £15 million. This cost was fully met by a contribution from the charitable funds of the YP Trustees[clarification needed], who have long association with the Mater.

In 1945 the first Mater Maternity Unit opened, caring for nineteen mothers and their babies. Then, in 1952, the first Neuropsychiatry department opened based in an acute Hospital. The Hospital became fully integrated into the National Health Service in 1972.

Today, it is one of the biggest employers in North Belfast with over 1000 staff, and is fully integrated into the Health Service of Northern Ireland with its own Trust Board of Management.

Architecturally, the hospital is housed in a mixture of historic and recent buildings. The older parts, like much of the remaining older architecture in Belfast, are of designs characteristic to the Victorian period in this country. The recent parts of the hospital are mostly of the basic functionalist structural design, of the later decades of the 20th Century, the largest being a large glass surface cuboid. The contrast of the design of both periods found next to each other and forming the one institution, notably on the Crumlin Road, may be found at least surprising, and some say incongruous.[citation needed]

Hospital services[edit]

The Mater Hospital has 236 beds and provides a comprehensive range of services:

  • General Medicine, including Haematology, Gastroenterology, Diabetes, and Cardiology;
  • General Surgery, including Vascular Surgery.
  • A regional Hepatobiliary Service which attracts referrals from throughout Northern Ireland.
  • Urology is available on a day case, inpatient and outpatient basis. There are over 300 Urology day cases and 500 inpatients per annum.[3] Outpatient services include a frank haematuria clinic.
  • The hospital holds a Charter Mark for its Psychiatric services including Day Hospital and Psychogeriatrics. It provides inpatient, day attendance and outpatient services to North and West Belfast. There are 55 inpatient psychiatric beds on the Mater hospital site. Day attendances (a nurse led service) take place at Alexandra Gardens Day Hospital. These include: cognitive behavioural therapy, one-to-one counselling, group work, relaxation classes and occupational therapy.
  • The Ophthalmology service has been awarded the Charter Mark twice. There are around 2,000 day cases per year in addition to weekly outpatient clinics.[citation needed]
  • ENT
  • Obstetrics, Neonatology and Gynaecology Services. This specialty has also been awarded a Charter Mark for its services. It includes a 23 bedded maternity unit and a 12 bedded gynaecology unit. In addition to Midwife care, a Breastfeeding Counsellor also aims to promote the rate of mothers who breastfeed and provided a flexible parentcraft programme.
  • Intensive Care Unit
  • An Accident & Emergency Department is open 24 hours per day
  • Day Procedure Unit a new £16 million inpatient and day procedures unit opened in 2001
  • A well equipped Radiology department which now includes a new MRI Unit, recently opened in January 2007

The Trust has also been awarded Charter Marks for Excellence in Maternity Services (awarded twice), Psychiatric Services and Ophthalmology.[citation needed]

From 1999 to 2000 the Mater Hospital cared for:-[citation needed]

  • 44,844 Accident and Emergency Patients
  • 64,300 Outpatient Patients
  • 13084 Inpatients and 3957 Day cases

Vicinity of the Mater Hospital[edit]

The vicinity of the hospital is filled with densely packed residential housing, mostly terraced style housing. For many years this has been a densely packed residential part of the city within walking distance of the city centre. In recent years newer terraced housing is evident, replacing similar older housing.

In terms of history of the last few decades, there is little notable to mention about this area, aside from being an area which has had in it or near it occurrences of violence during The Troubles. Although there has been for decades and there remains little of interest currently which would draw people from outside this area in terms of services, there is certainly interest to be found in the area and good potential. The area has been deemed as one which is expected to be greatly regenerated, and is earmarked for development.

A few buildings of very important historical and historical political interest remain nearby. The former Crumlin Road Gaol (prison) building nearby has become a very popular visitor attraction. During this first decade of the 21st Century, there has been much published and talked about as to how the area can be regenerated for people of the vicinity and Belfast as well as visitors to the city.

The large, grand Court House building on Crumlin Road is likely to be developed (see Crumlin Road Courthouse). Local press reported interest of development of the very historically significant building in terms of a visitor attraction and tourist accommodation. Though redevelopment as apartments has recently been suggested, and it is hoped that very sensitive redevelopment of this fine building will take place to the better effect of this vicinity of the Mater Infirmorum Hospital. There is further historical interest in a few buildings close by around Carlisle Circus, on North Queen Street and on the bottom of Antrim Road, as well as one of the city's oldest cemeteries Clifton Street Graveyard (entry at Henry Place, Clifton Street). The Victorian parts of The Mater Hospital are intended to be preserved.


  1. ^ a b Casement, Rory S. (31 October 1968). "History of the Mater Infirmorum Hospital". The Ulster Medical Journal. 38 (1): 62–75. PMC 2385153Freely accessible. PMID 4896222. 
  2. ^ "History of the Medical School". Queen's University Belfast. 
  3. ^ "Mater Services". 

External links[edit]