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1980 - 1990

March 1980

Rev Nora Calvert is appointed by the Presbyterian Social Services Association as hospital chaplain at National Women's.

March 1980

There is a public outcry following the government's decision to not pay the Auckland Hospital Board the $110,000 required to run the Mothercraft Unit at National Women. The Board announces the Unit is to close as it has outlived its usefulness. This Unit provided a 24 hour service and was available to both out-of-town and local women. The Unit was set up following the closure of the Auckland Karitane Hospital in 1978.

June 1980

The Asiata quads are born at National Women's.


St Helen's celebrates its 75th birthday with 75th Jubilee Celebrations. Staff organise various fundraising activities, including a fair and a summer house is built in the garden for women using the hospital and their families.

June 1982

Barry Twydle is the first male midwife to work at National Women's. He had to go to Scotland to be accepted for midwifery training.

30 April 1983 (NZ Listener)

Dr Richard Fisher, Acting Medical Superintendent announces plans at National Women's for a family birthing room with ordinary furnishings and tea and coffee making facilities. He states that `the attitude at National Women's was that anyone with a normal pregnancy should have a normal birth’.

27 May 1983(Report to Hospital Board)

Nine nurses completed the first basic course in Neonatal Nursing offered by the Auckland Hospital Board.  Three of the graduates were from St Helen's.

25 June 1983 (NZ Listener)

A feature article highlights infertility issues and describes how NZ couples wanting IVF treatment spend $5000 (including the air fare ) to go to Australia - the nearest treatment centre offering this technique. At this time the service had an 18-month waiting list and was described as being for the `stoic and affluent’. In May 1983 (Herald May 24 1983) the Auckland Hospital Board agreed to investigate the cost of setting up an Auckland-based IVF service. However, the board's superintendent-in-chief, Leslie Honeyman said it was not a priority and that there were ethical questions to be faced in relation to `manipulating life in a test tube’.

27 July 1983 (Auckland Star)

Auckland obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Colin Mantell, criticises the Auckand Hospital Board for being unable to find $100,000 for an IVF service. He suggests the board transfer the salary of one of the Epsom Day Hospital staff to an IVF service.

1983 (NZH)

Full-time specialist in obstetrics and gynaecology at National Women's Dr Richard Fisher describes a `near-perfect pain-killer’ for women in labour. The technique, a para-cervical block, was first used in the 1930s but the technique used affected the baby's heart rate. However, NWH has been lent a $1900 gas-operated jet injector, resembling a miniature grease-gun so much lower safer doses (.25ml) could be given than in the 1930s (10-20ml). At this time, epidurals were used by about 35% of women in labour. Dr Fisher stated that the new technique stops pain from the uterus but unlike epidurals, this approach does not affect the woman's ability to move around or to effectively push her baby out. It can also be administered by an obstetrician so an anaesthetist doesn’t have to be present.

5 July 1983 (Auckland Star)

National Women's announces plans to purchase a programmed biological freezing system for preserving semen as an aid to infertile couples.

10 August 1983 (Herald)

Doctors at National Women's use IVF for the first time in New Zealand

16 August 1983 (Auckland Star)

Doctors at National Women's announce the discovery of an effective treatment for unborn babies whose mothers blood contains lupus anti-coagulant.

Oct 1983

National Women's Principal Nurse, Miss Verna Murray retires. Edna Davies is employed as her replacement.

Oct 1983 (Report to Hospital Board)

Students from the New Zealand Bible College now include experience at St Helen's in their counselling course.

February 1984 (ASB)

The Auckland Infertility Society presents a carbon dioxide incubator to the National Women's fertility clinic.

February 1984 (ASB)

The hospital announces that women giving birth at National Women's can now have babies in the home-like comfort of a birthing room.

February 1984 (Report to Hospital Board)

The senior medical staff at St Helen's set up the Mortality and Morbidity Committee to review all serious cases prior to Perinatal Mortality Conferences.  The first meeting is held on 22 February.


An arson attack caused major damage to the abortion clinic at Warborough Ave. The abortion service was relocated to Ward 7 at National Women's for 3 months while repairs were carried out.

18 October 1984 (Auckland Star)

Luke Hayes becomes the most premature baby at National Women's to survive.

8 December 1984 (Auckland Star)

Professor Graham Liggins, Associate Professor Ross Howie and David Knight announce a significant discovery which could substantially reduce the death rates of premature babies suffering from lung disease (RDS). This follows research carried out at National Women's

February 1985 (ASB)

The Auckland Savings Bank donates a $60,000 laser machine to National Women's for the treatment of infertile women and those with cervical cancer,

February 1985 (ASB)

Samoan grandmother, Tui Falialofa is ordained a minister of the Presbyterian church. She takes up a position as chaplain at National Women's in conjunction with being the minister at the Pacific Island's church in Newton.

June 1985

Mrs Wailin Elliott's sculpture of Mother and Child, purchased with the remainder of the 75th Jubilee money was received at St Helen's in time for the 79th anniversary.  (This sculpture is presently located in the atrium area ( walkway between new and support building) at National Women's on level 9.

19 September 1985

Open Day for the public at National Women's Hospital to celebrate the hospital's 21st birthday. Ann Marie Edge, the first baby born at the new hospital attends the celebration. She is now a teacher.

21 September 1985 (Listener)

Dr Gabrielle Collison, the recently appointed Medical Superintendent talks publicly about her job at National Women's.

18 February 1986

Teen Clinics are set up on Fridays in the National Women's antenatal clinic.

6 August 1986 (NZH)

Canadian nurse, Lynn Litwinowich is appointed to control the new neonatal nursing course at the hospital.

7 April 1987

National Women's enters the national grid for patient numbers.

14 July 1987

Establishment of the position for a part time diabetic nurse educator.

June 1987 (Metro)

Article published by Sandra Coney and Phillida Bunkle which instigated the Inquiry into the treatment of cervical cancer at national Women's. The article describes the approach and treatment used by gynaecologist Herbert Green between 1966-1982.


The National Women's telephone exchange switches from a manual to an electronic system.

June 1988 (Broadsheet)

Waireti Walters-Ratima sets up facilities for healthcare for Maori women which includes a whanau room at National Women's and the Whare Rapuora service at Glen Innes.

20 May 1988

Antenatal classes at national Women's introduce the use of TENS machines for pain relief during labour.

5 August 1988

The report of the Cervical Cancer Inquiry prepared by Judge Silvia Cartwright is publicly released.

15 September 1988

Code of Rights and Obligations for Patients are now to be displayed in every room at National Women's.

4 April 1989 (Auckland Star & NZH)

Siamese twins are born at National Women's. This is the first time. The two girls are joined at the lower chest and upper abdomen in a face-to-face position.

17 May 1989 (Auckland Star)

Gynaecology services are transfered to Greenlane Hospital as part of the $46 million cost cuts announced by the Auckland Area Health Board.

18 September 1989 (Western Leader)

Lynda Williams is appointed to the position of patient advocate at National Women's Hospital.


A `Save St Helen's' campaign is established in an effort to stop the closure of the hospital.

17 October 1989 (NZH)

Dr Gabrielle Collison's position of National Women's Medical Superintendent is disestablished as part of restructuring.

November 1989 (ASB)

A recent upgrade of National Women's refurbishes four wards and the delivery unit.

National Women's Health
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