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Fort Street Scandals: The Tragedy of Jane Fitzsimmons

The Death of Jane Fitzsimmons

The Douglas General Hospital and Dispensary on Fort Street had barely been open a year when it was rocked by controversy around poor patients who were refused treatment. One of the saddest of these was the case of Jane Fitzsimmons.

Jane was in her mid-twenties and lived on Hanover Street, the mother of two children and heavily pregnant with a third. In March 1851 her husband, a labourer, left her and the children in destitution. In the afternoon of Monday 24 March 1851 Jane and a friend walked to the hospital to seek help. An altercation occurred between Jane, her friend and the hospital staff, including Matron Nelly Brennan, and Jane was sent away.

The staff at the hospital referred Jane to the House of Industry [workhouse] for shelter and food, but instead she went home to Hanover Street. Here she went into labour and died suddenly. Her burial record contains a note that her death was “awfully sudden – supposed to be from starvation“.

Public opinion ran high after this event, and the coroner publicly criticised the hospital for its lack of care. The Mona’s Herald was especially angry about the language used by Matron Brennan to Mrs Fitzsimmons before her death.

The Hospital Committee called a special meeting in July 1851 to investigate. They accepted the staff’s explanation, and maintained that Mrs Fitzpatrick had been looking for food and shelter, not treatment. They also claimed that they hadn’t known about Mrs Fitzpatrick’s pregnancy. However, they did change the rules to make it easier for accident victims to receive treatment quickly.

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