Doctor caring hands

Mercer’s Medical Centre: a legacy of care for our students and our local community

  • Society

Over 20 years ago, RCSI established the largest primary care centre in Dublin's inner city. Located on the site of the old Mercer Hospital, the practice is committed to honouring the legacy of the founder of the Mercer Hospital, Mary Mercer, by providing healthcare for the people of inner-city Dublin.

Today, Mercer’s Medical Centre is a modern, dynamic primary care practice with a team of doctors, nurses and support staff, all employees of RCSI, providing the full range of general practice care to public and private patients.

The practice is a Primary Care Research Practice for the Irish College of General Practitioners, and also participates in the training of student doctors and in the specialist training of future General Practitioners.

Caring for our students

All RCSI Undergraduate students are entitled to attend the practice for free for all aspects of primary health care, including acute illness, chronic disease management and reproductive healthcare.

The practice operates a confidential comprehensive sexually transmitted disease screening and treatment service, as well as a travel health service for our students travelling overseas for their medical electives.

The team supports our students in all aspects of mental healthcare, from counselling, liaising with other mental health professionals including psychologists and psychiatrists, prescribing, follow-up and after-care.

From the outset of the COVID pandemic, the practice has been pivotal in the University’s response. Practice director Dr Kilian McGrogan plays an important advisory role on our management of the virus, while the practice provides compassionate care and support for our students who test positive. The practice also ran an efficient vaccination programme for students, staff and the local community, and continues to provide booster vaccines

Serving our local community

Based in an area of deprivation and relative poverty, the practice is at the heart of the local community. The team provides the full range of medical services to all groups in the locality, including homeless people, substance abuse users, asylum seekers, hostel dwellers, and individuals recently released from prison.

The practice provides free medical cover to the local Salvation Army hostel, two hostels for homeless people, and until recently, a residential asylum centre (which closed in 2021).

The staff of the medical centre also do an extensive amount of volunteer work, including annual community health checks, participation in a men's health project, participating in schools and colleges careers evenings, establishing and staffing an out-of-hours community primary care service, and providing speakers for health education meetings on various topics, including positive ageing and LGBTQ+ health.

The practice is also part of the South Inner City Partnership, which is a network of 30 GP practices in the geographical area of Dublin’s south inner city, working in conjunction with city centre hospitals to provide services to the local community. These include direct access radiology, smoking cessation, physiotherapy, podiatry for diabetic patients, and wound management.

The team are activists for change in our health system and lobby for improved community services.

Construction of Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in front of Mercers Hospital, 1980

Construction of Stephen's Green Shopping Centre in front of Mercers Hospital, 1980. Courtesy of RCSI Heritage Collections.

A 700-year legacy of healthcare and Handel’s Messiah

Medical services have been provided on the site of Mercer’s Medical Centre for more than 700 years.

Operating first as a hospital caring for leprosy patients in the 14th century, the building was taken over by Mary Mercer in 1724 who saw it as a 'fine stone house' in which to set up a shelter for poor girls.

Approximately a decade later, it was taken over by a group of eminent physicians and surgeons who founded Mercer’s Hospital as a charitable institution. The original crest refers to the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the Hospital motto was 'Fac Similiter', meaning 'Do Likewise'.

As a charitable institution, the hospital showed considerable ingenuity in raising funds. On 13 April 1742, the world premiere of Handel’s Messiah was held in the Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin, to raise funds for the hospital.

Mercers Hospital Dublin, Founded 1730

Mercers Hospital Dublin, founded 1730.Courtesy of RCSI Heritage Collections.

In 1904, the hospital arranged another fundraising event of historical significance. Mirus Bazaar was a one-week fête which proved wildly successful and is mentioned several times in James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce was so taken with the event that he chose to move its date so that it fell on Bloomsday.

In 1784, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland acquired its first premises in Mercer Street immediately adjacent to the hospital, marking the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship which continues to this day.

Mercer’s closed as an acute general hospital in 1983. It was subsequently purchased by RCSI, who spent several years restoring the building before re-opening it in 1991 as a clinical centre and medical library.

RCSI is committed to achieving a better and more sustainable future through the UN Sustainable Development Goals.