Select the search type
  • Site
  • Web

1970 - 1980


Verna Murray is appointed as principal nurse at NWH. She did her midwifery training at St Helen's Hospital in 1950 when women stayed in the hospital for 14 days after the birth and were confined to bed for the first five. Up until she retired in 1983/4 she was the only principal nurse in Auckland still wearing the traditional matron's veil and `her’ nurses were the only ones still wearing caps. At this time the average hospital stay was down to six and a half days following a birth.

23 December 1971 (Herald)

An Obstetric Flying Squad of doctors, nurses, and anaesthetists based at National Women's to cover the entire Auckland province is established.


Dr Liggins and Dr Howie carry out a randomised controlled trial at National Women's which demonstrates the effectiveness of giving steroids to women in premature labour for reducing deaths, respiratory distress and other adverse effects in their premature infants.

April 1974

For the first time in New Zealand, a qualified doctor, Dr A.W Cooper, is appointed as a medical social worker for National Women's.

23 February 1976

The NZ Women's Weekly publishes a major article about the leading international research being carried out by the National Women's neonatal and obstetric team since 1969 which indicates the possibility of avoiding one of the newborn's greatest hazards - respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). The hospital team is given a grant from the World Health Organisation to follow up the first 300 children born after their mothers received steroid drug therapy during preterm labour. This is to involve regular psychological, IQ, sight and hearing testing until the children start school.

August 1977

Dr RA Warren retires from the position of Medical Superintendent. Dr I.L.G. Hutchison is appointed as his successor.

3rd April 1978

The National Women's application for the first licence to provide a termination of pregnancy service is lodged with tribunals division of the Dept of Justice.

31st May 1978

Epsom Day Hospital is granted a licence for 5 Warborough Avenue Epsom for the purposes of providing an abortion service. Warborough Avenue house was also known as St Margaret's Clinic. There was a dermatologist based at the clinic as well.

December 1978 (ASB)

National Women's announces plans to renovate 4 gynaecology operating theatres.

1978 (Auckland Star)

National Women's statistics for the 1978 year included an average of 10.7 specialist and academic staff, 27 registrars, senior house officers and house surgeons and 134.5 occupied clinic beds. St Helen's had 64 beds, 3.3 specialist and academic staff and 8 registrars, senior house officers and house surgeons.

At this stage there was no obstetric service in Waitakere so many women from this area travelled to St. Helen's for the birth and 24-48 hours later were transferred by ambulance back to Waitakere. Only women with GPs and no complications could have their babies at Waitakere Hospital. The reason given for the lack of a Waitakere obstetric service was the lack of appropriate staff. The Hospital Board considered it impractical to send a registrar from St Helen's and felt the provision of an on call system would mean a lack of job satisfaction for doctors. This situation was also the case for North Shore Hospital where there was no resident obstetric registrar or on call system.

St Helen's provided a Level 2 obstetric and neonatal intensive care service. Services provided at the hospital included antenatal, postnatal and paediatric clinics, antenatal classes, physiotherapy, laboratory, social workers plus x-ray and ultrasound. The hospital's kitchen also provided 60 meals on wheels each day. An antenatal outreach clinic was run at Waitakere Hospital and women and babies with complications were transferred to St Helen's from the North Shore, Helensville and Warkworth.

March 1979 (Auckland Star & NZH)

The Auckland Hospital Board Chairman, Dr Frank Rutter publicly criticised Auckland women for pressing for free access to National Women's for those receiving care from a private obstetrician or GP. He claimed that this would mean insufficient teaching material for the post-graduate school and that beds should be reserved for clinic patients to whom students have free access. He told women that they had a moral obligation to assist with medical teaching programmes and to allow their bodies to be used for teaching purposes. He also said that women owe it to their grand-daughters to use the clinic system.

Meetings with doctors at National Women's resulted in an announcement from Dr Peter Jackson, Acting Superintendent, that senior doctors at the hospital had agreed to lift restrictions on the number of births private doctors could attend, providing the teaching nature of the hospital be maintained. The quota at this time was for no more than 30 private beds per day. Staff specialists were able to attend 4 private births per month, GPs with a diploma of obstetrics could attend 2 and GPs without the diploma could attend 1 birth per month. Dr Jackson stated that preference would be given to those patients who agreed to participate in the teaching programme. There was an outcry from women who felt they should not have to be part of medical teaching.

April 1979 (Auckland Star)

Prime Minister Robert Muldoon announces that private maternity hospitals are a thing of the past. This followed the closing of all the private Auckland maternity hospitals in the interests of the post-graduate school so that National Women's beds would be full. The last to close was the Mater Misericordiae Maternity Unit which meant an additional 600 women a year would be having babies at National Women's.

15 May 1979

Margaret Martin has a baby daughter at National Women's following a hysterectomy. The baby, Shannon, was born at 36 weeks gestation by laparotomy and the placenta, which was attached to the mother's bowel was left in place for the body to absorb. This miraculous pregnancy was discovered when Margaret was booked in for surgery to remove what was thought to be an ovarian cyst. To everyone's surprise, she was found to be 26 weeks pregnant.

Dr Peter Jackson, the full time consultant at National Women's caring for Mrs Martin was contacted by numerous overseas journalists and doctors as this case made international headlines. He was even contacted by 2 gay men from South America who were excited by the possibility this offered men wanting to have children! The BBC made several documentaries about the case which included Mrs Martin being flown to the UK following Dr Jackson's return to Leeds, UK in July 1987. Her story was also published on the front pages of London newspapers.

14 August 1979

A hospital directive is issued stating that `If husbands are present at delivery they must be placed on a stool on the mother's right, at the head of the table. They must not be standing or walking around the theatre.’

21 November 1979

The Neonatal Parent Support Group is formed to provide support to parents with babies in a neonatal unit at National Women's and to raise money to purchase equipment needed in the unit.


The St Helen's School of Midwifery closes. 1445 students had qualified as midwives.

National Women's Health
Phone: 09 307 4949
© 2010 Auckland District Health Board
Website Design and Development by NetPotential