The Queensland government has announced it will change the name of the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane.
The move is the result of a review called by Health Minister Steven Miles following a petition from 900 hospital staff to change the name, citing confusion among the public who think the building is a private hospital.
Earlier this month he announced that 62% of the 38,000 respondents to the government’s online survey had voted in favour of changing the name to the Queensland Children’s Hospital.
“This was originally the Queensland Children’s Hospital — the previous government changed its name without consulting anyone,” Miles said.
“We’ve been through a decent process here of consulting the staff, consulting the public.”
Miles said the process to rename the hospital could take a few months at a cost of almost $500,000 – mostly to change the building’s exterior signage – to be funded by the Public Works Department. He said the state government wanted to find an alternative way to recognise Lady Cilento’s contribution within the hospital precinct.
LNP Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington tweeted that the decision to change the name was “wrong” and she called the Queensland government “arrogant and out of touch”.
“Instead of trying to improve health services for our sickest kids, [Palaszczuk] is more fixated with trying to airbrush a pioneering female doctor from our history,” she said.
Lady Cilento’s son, David Cilento, also said the name change was disrespectful.
“There’s no worse way of permanently damaging a person’s reputation than publicly expunging their name from a building,” he said.
“The only reason people have their names ripped off buildings and things like this is usually because they’re persons of ill repute or actual criminals — my mother was neither,” he said.
Racist and homophobic commentary
In a career spanning more than 50 years, the late Lady Phyllis Dorothy Cilento served at the former Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Herston in the 1930s.
She was an early advocate of vitamins, natural childbirth and family planning, authored 24 books and was a frequent contributor of columns to newspapers and magazines.
Last month, QNews Magazine backed the name change in an editorial and shed light on Lady Cilento’s history of racist and homophobic commentary, including describing homosexuals as a “malignant tumour” on Australian life.
Medical staff association president Ben Whitehead welcomed the name change, saying it would aid recognition of the hospital, including for families and international research.
“We felt it was important to be changed for a number of reasons, mainly around the recognition of the hospital,” he told the Brisbane Times.
“There was confusion as to whether this hospital was a public or a private facility – we’ve had stories from families who at their time of need were greatly distressed by the thought they were being referred to a private hospital, that they might not be able to afford the care.”
(Top left photo by Kgbo/Wikimedia Commons, top right photo by State Library of Australia)