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1906 - 1960

1906

The first Auckland St Helen's Hospital opens in Pitt Street, opposite the Central Fire Station. The hospital is a two storey wooden building which had originally been the home of Auckland Medical Officer of Health, Dr AG Purchas. The Department of Health was responsible for the hospital when it opened in 1906 until 1966 when the Auckland Hospital Board took over. Early documents from St Helen's are held by the Auckland branch of the National Archives of New Zealand.

Although midwives travel for some years from the new staff residence on the Mt Albert site to Pitt Street, the hospital finally closes when the new St Helen's Hospital opens in 1968. The Pitt Street buildings are taken over by the periodic detention service.

The Auckland hospital was one of a number of St Helen's Hospitals which were founded and named by Prime Minister, Rt Hon Richard J Seddon who was born in the English town of St Helen's. The hospitals were established when Seddon was Prime Minister to provide quality maternity care to the wives of working men and for training midwives. The first of the St Helen's Hospitals opened in 1905 in Wellington and Dunedin, followed by Auckland the following year. Richard Seddon was unable to open the Auckland Hospital as planned as he died shortly before the opening.

Situated at the front of National Women's. The statue is the work of American sculptor Pierce Frank Connelly + formerly stood in the grounds of a villa in Florence. It was bought by Cornwall Park Trustees at the request of the late Sir John Logan Campbell in 1909. The statue stood in Cornwall Park near the kiosk before being moved to National Women's.

1922

A new purpose built concrete St Helen's Hospital is built on the Pitt Street site next to the original wooden building which becomes the nurses home. The matron's flat is situated on the ground floor of the old hospital.

1945 (NZ Nursing Journal)

A public appeal is instigated by Dr Doris Gordon for funds to help finance a chair of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. This appeal closed in 1947 having successfully raised £101,203. It was also in this year that discussion began regarding a suitable site for a large new maternity hospital. A number of sites were considered until the present site behind Greenlane Hospital 3 was finally approved.

The obstetric endowment fund which led to the building of National Women's was set up by Dr Doris Gordon. She was one of the first two women to graduate in medicine in this country and in 1937 she co-founded the Obstetrics' Society with her husband Bill, also a doctor. She also established two post-graduate schools of obstetrics and gynaecology in Dunedin and Auckland. Doris was a prime mover in the fight for publicly funded maternity care for all women. In 1938, as a result of her efforts New Zealand became the first country in the Commonwealth to fully fund 14 days rest in hospital following the birth of a baby, as well as the cost of the medical, midwifery and anaesthetic care. Her son Peter Gordon later became a Minister of Labour.

9 June 1946

The first baby is born at Cornwall Hospital, the `original National Women's hospital’ situated in Cornwall Park next door to the present Claude Road site. National Women's was known by its present name from 1955 onwards. Prior to this, it was called the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Hospital, situated at Green lane West. Earlier, there was an obstetric and gynaecological unit at Cornwall Hospital.

1958

Construction of the new National Women's Hospital commences. As well as the hospital, 2 nurses homes are also to be built, one for National Women's and the other for Greenlane Hospital. The hospital is described in a 1964 NZ Nursing Journal as setting a skyscraper trend being 12 storeys high from the sub-basement to the top floor. It is to have 162 obstetric beds, 74 gynaecological beds, facilities for 54 premature babies and an isolation block.

The National Women's nurses home is to contain 4 flats, 4 bed-sitting rooms, 240 nurses bedrooms and a lounge on each floor. The 2 top floors will be the Central School of Nursing for the Auckland Hospital Board. Each nurses home will also have living-out staff facilities and lounges, and a large cafeteria and lounge common to both.

National Women's Health
Phone: 09 307 4949
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