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Hospital named after doctor who called gay people a ‘tumour’ sparks protest

Ella Braidwood August 28, 2018

Medical staff are reportedly petitioning for a hospital to be renamed because the doctor it was named after, Lady Cilento, had racist and homophobic views.

Some 900 employees at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, Queensland, signed a petition calling for the institute to have a name change, reports the Guardian Australia.

Although local media has reported that calls for the hospital to be renamed are because members of the public wrongly think it is a private building, medical staff told the Guardian Australia that their concerns were mainly based on Cilento’s views and her background. The hospital was given its name in 2013.

Lady Cilento holding a child in January 1949. (Photograph held by John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland)

Cilento, an advocate of family planning in Queensland, was a prominent doctor in the country from the 1920s until her death, aged 93, in 1987. She wrote regular columns in Brisbane’s The Courier Mail and a number of women’s magazines.

However, she remains a controversial figure because of her offensive views on ethnic minorities and the LGBT+ community. Some critics have also questioned her medical journalism.

In a 1953 column for The Courier Mail, she wrote that gay people should not be tolerated, saying homosexuals were part of a “cult” and a “malignant tumour” on society.

And, in 1944, she wrote that “it would not be in the best interests of children … to be cared for by coloured labour.”

A nurse at the hospital told the Guardian Australia: “The ideas might be from the 1930s, but that’s still the name we have at the front.

“It’s insulting to the staff who work here and provide these kids with excellent care. Even if she did make some contribution, it’s like the government saying we’re happy to name a hospital after someone who held those views.”

The nurses explained that Cilento’s articles had been read by staff, adding that employees “don’t want to work in a place that is a monument to a quack.”

Former Queensland premier has objected to the proposed name change on Twitter. (Campbell Newman/Twitter)

The Queensland government has reportedly announced its support for a name change on the basis that some members of the public think it is a private hospital.

However, Campbell Newman, the former Liberal National Party premier of Queensland, whose party gave the hospital its name in 2013, has objected to the proposed name change, calling it “bulldust” on Twitter.

He wrote: “We have a Princess Alexandra hospital, Prince Charles hospital and a Queen Elizabeth II hospital but somehow a female medical pioneer who actually lived in Queensland isn’t suitable!”

More: Australia, Australia, Brisbane, Guardian, Lady Cilento Children's Hospital

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