Topic: Kawerau's Maternity Hospitals

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With the creation of the new town of Kawerau and a growing population, the need for maternity hospital services was quickly established with the temporary Maternity Hospital opening in 1956.

Sister Nancy Thompson The First Maternity Hospital

Kawerau’s temporary Maternity Hospital was situated in Waterhouse Street and consisted of three houses connected by a covered walkway. Patients, often in wheelchairs had to be moved between the houses in all weathers. It covered an area of 3600 square feet and cost £18,000. The official opening was held on 11 May 1956 by the Hon. W. Sullivan, Member of Parliament for the Kawerau area. The first baby born at the hospital, on 5 May, was Anita the daughter of Mr & Mrs Delahunty, the first baby boy arrived on 23 May 1956.

Sister Nancy Thompson (pictured on the right) was the Sister-In-Charge. Other staff were Sister Helen Brown and Nurses N. de Graaff, S. Hodson and V. Whitehead. Kawerau had a very cosmopolitan community in the early days. There were people from every European nationality and Sister Thompson learnt to say ‘Push, little mother’ in practically every European language. Cramped conditions were common in the hospital as it could have nine patients at a pinch, including one mattress on a prep board over the bath. It was soon evident that a larger more permanent maternity hospital was needed.

The Second Maternity Hospital

Construction of the Second Kawerau Maternity Hospital 1967Eleven years after the opening of the temporary hospital the permanent maternity hospital was officially opened on 31 October 1967 at a cost of $170,000 and was situated on River Road at the rear of the Waterhouse Street site.  Even though the new hospital only had eight beds the facilities and working conditions were very much improved. Sister Nancy Thompson was the Sister-in-Charge when the new hospital opened. Retiring in 1973 Nancy was succeeded in turn by Sisters-in-Charge Jessie McLeod, Katarina Simpson and Margaret Paul.

The first baby to be born in the new hospital was Megan Elizabeth Quinn, born on 27 October 1967, whose parents lived at Te Mahoe. To mark the occasion a savings account with $10 credit was presented to Megan by the Kawerau Chamber of Commerce. Megan’s mother was presented with a pram by Lines Bros. (NZ) Limited, through the local agent McKenzie’s Cycles and Motors Limited.

A pram was also gifted to Rangi and John Simpson who had the first twins in the hospital in December 1967. Well half of them! Their daughter Daryll was born on 6 December in Kawerau but due to complications Rangi had to be transferred to Rotorua immediately afterwards. So the next day Daryll's twin brother Milton was born in Rotorua.

Unfortunately the population of Kawerau did not increase as expected and with the change in professional medical opinion on maternity issues, favouring confinement in an obstetric unit, more women chose to have their babies either in Whakatane or Rotorua. With only between 50 and 100 deliveries a year the maternity hospital in Kawerau was no longer economic. In 1984 the Bay of Plenty Hospital Board approached the Minister of Health, Dr Bassett, regarding closure of the maternity hospital which he decided to defer for a year from September 1985. In December 1986 the decision was made by the hospital board to close the maternity hospital on 31 March 1987. The last baby to be born at the hospital on 4 March 1987 was Katherine, daughter of Carol and John Gibson.

Later in 1987 the Bay of Plenty Hospital Board confirmed the Kawerau maternity annex would be used as a rest home. The board invited proposals on the development of the annex as a rest home. The Kawerau Social Services Trust was formed in 1989 to convert the old Maternity Hospital buildings and grounds into a rest home with the official opening of Mountain View Rest Home taking place in June 1992. Over the years a progression of building expansions have been undertaken to create the present day Mountain View Aged Care Complex consisting of retirement village, rest home and hospital facility. There are 42 hospital and rest home residents at Mountain View with 15 cottages for independent living.

The Sir James Fletcher Kawerau Museum curated an exhibition on the Kawerau Maternity Hospitals September 2013 - March 2014.

References:

Moore, Ken. "Kawerau: Its history and background". 1990, pgs. 132-135.
Tradewinds magazine article "Wonderful new asset". Dec 1967
Rotorua Daily Post. "One twin was born here, other there" Dec 1967