Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital Jubilee Booklet 1978


JUBILEE 1928   –   1978


The following history of the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Hastings, covers the period from the very first suggestion of a hospital in Hastings, in 1906, through to the opening of the hospital in 1928, until the jubilee year of 1978. It should be understood that it is not the Hastings Hospital, but the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital, Hastings. The planners made this quite clear in their original concept of their plan, and districts well outside Hastings Borough supported and contributed to the cause. That this is not just the Hastings Hospital, but the Hastings and District Hospital, is made quite clear by the name which can be seen in large letters on the Surgical Block – “Memorial Hospital, Hastings”.

Enormous changes have taken place over the years, as can be seen from the following population figures:-
Hastings Town/City         1906 – 4,594      1928 (1926) – 10,148      1978 – 35,100
Havelock Borough           1906 – 439         1928 (1926) – 1,050        1978 – 8,420
Hastings Urban District   1906 – 7,090      1928 (1926) – 16,124      1978 – 51,100
(Includes Clive, Mangateretere, Whakatu, etc.)

When the Hospital was opened on Anzac day 1928, the total beds were 30, whereas now, in 1978 the total beds are 381. There were 11 members of the nursing staff; the medical staff consisted of               ,[sic] who were general practitioners (none of whom were specialists) for maternity only, and there were no facilities such as x-ray or laboratory. Today, there are 238 nurses and there is a total of 53 medical staff, including house staff.

On reading this history, it becomes at once apparent that the Napier Hospital Board resisted any idea of a hospital in Hastings for many years and furthermore, the impression must be gained that there was, at least, obstruction to this scheme. It is emphasized that this is a history and the account is past history. The obstruction and sometimes animosity of Napier towards Hastings is a thing of the past.

A large part of this history is based on an excellent thesis written by AM Isdale Esq. B.A. In 1943. It is patently obvious that he went to the enormous trouble in reading past minutes of the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board, Minutes of the various meetings concerned with those Hastings people seeking to obtain a hospital, newspaper reports, and a mountain of correspondence. I have taken much from the original thesis, and quoted from it liberally.

I wish to give due acknowledgement to this excellent thesis and feel his two works should be preserved for all time.


The original proposal for a hospital for Hastings goes back as far as 1906.

In that year, the proposal to erect a cottage hospital as a Seddon Memorial in Hastings was considered by a committee in Hastings and an approach was made to the Napier Hospital Board as it then was. The Hastings committee so formed asked that if the building was provided by the people of Hastings, the Napier Board would take it over and maintain it as a cottage hospital.

A majority of 4 to 3 rejected this proposal and the Hastings Committee was informed that the Board would, however, favourably consider the proposal that a District Nurse (or Nurses) in Hastings would be subsidized by the Board. The matter was then evaded, which appears to have been typical of the Board’s attitude for many years to come, the Board being largely made up of Napier residents.

Ambulance for Hastings:-

The next step was that, in 1908, the Hastings Borough Council asked the Napier Hospital Board to provide an ambulance to convey Hastings patients to Napier, to which the Board replied that they would transfer patients from Hastings to Napier in the same way as patients within the Napier Borough were transferred to the Hospital. This was at the cost of ten shillings per patient, if the patient could pay. If the patient was unable to pay, then half the fee was collected from the Charitable Aid Board. At this time it appears that the Board subsidized payment of the fee to the patients in Hastings private hospitals.

Nothing was further heard then until the 7th September, 1910, when a committee was formed in Hastings to again discuss the possibility of establishing a cottage hospital in Hastings, and in the same year land was offered to Hastings for this purpose.

Years went by and in 1913 another public meeting was called to form what was known as the Hastings Hospital Association and later a deputation was formed which waited upon the Napier Hospital Board with a request to establish a 12 bed hospital in Hastings. The sum of **£470 had been collected by various means and many meetings were held in Hastings. Before the deputation could again wait upon the Hospital Board, the 1914 – 1918 war had intervened. Nothing further was heard of the scheme for some years. It was, however, obvious that the Board was definitely hostile to the scheme, in spite of the fact that the committee declared that they were not seeking a separate Board but that it should be merely an extension of Napier.

In the meantime, there were several private hospitals in Hastings.

** This was collected for what was known as the “Cottage Hospital Fund”.

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However, in 1916, the question of establishing a Maternity Hospital was raised and the Minister of Health, The Honourable GW Russell, suggested that St Helen’s Home might be considered, provided the sum of £3000 to £4000 was raised. Nothing more was heard for a further two years.

Again, in June 1918, the Hastings committee waited upon the Napier Hospital Board as a deputation, to request the establishment of a Maternity Cottage Hospital and again nothing was heard for some years in spite of much correspondence.

Influenza Epidemic – 1918:-

The world wide influenza epidemic appeared in Hastings in November of that year. On November 7th the Hastings Borough Council held an urgent meeting to consider measures of coping with the problem. As a result of this Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club buildings were taken over as an emergency hospital

On December 30th 1918 the result of this was as follows:-

Racecourse          Admitted – 222  Discharged – 174             Deaths – 48
Drill Hall                Admitted – 87    Discharged – 76               Deaths – 11

As a result of this, the suggestion of a hospital for Hastings was once more revived, largely as a result of the Epidemic Committee’s report in December 1918.

After a good deal of discussion, meetings and deputations, the Hospital Board reported on October 31st that all previous resolutions had been rescinded and that the Board favourably considered the erection of a Maternity Ward and Casualty Ward in Hastings. A subsequent public meeting in Hastings enthusiastically agreed that the Hastings district provide an institution as a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Hawke’s Bay district.

It was the intention that, when the building was completed it should be handed over to the Board free of encumbrances and the property known as the “Ridge Property” was, in fact, acquired in 1919.

This was the state of affairs between 1919 and 1926.

1919 – 1924 Years of negotiation and delay:-

At this stage, the suggestion had been for the establishment of a hospital in which there would be 10 maternity beds and 10 beds for emergency cases and children, with provision for nurses, catering and outpatients. Sketch plans were received by the committee on the 12th February 1921. However, these plans proved too costly and were altered in view of the fact that only £17,000 was available for the building.

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1921 – 1923:-

The actual cost was estimated to be £35,000 and this was subsequently reduced to £28,000.

The Mayor, Mr Ebbett, who appears to have been an extremely able, tactful and dogged worker for the cause, arranged for the site to be transferred to the Crown so that a subsidy could be obtained, though it was the intention of the Health Department to hand it over to the Napier Hospital Board as soon as the hospital was ready.

Hastings – The base auxiliary hospital:-

About this time, it appears that the Napier members of the Board who referred to the proposed Hastings Hospital as the “Auxiliary Hospital” that Hastings were wanting a hospital that might rival Napier, and realized some of the Board members were openly obstructive to the scheme.

The Director General of Health, Dr Valentine, stated that the Health Department Policy was to have a centrally based hospital, containing all modern equipment, staffed by a team of specialists and divided into numerous special departments, whereas other centres in the district could have subsidiary hospitals equipped and staffed only to take cases that did not require specialist treatment. Therefore in 1923, the Hastings committee found itself not only up against the Department but also against what was now the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board.

Mr Ebbett said that Hastings wished to establish a Maternity Ward and to provide a hospital for twelve, with six maternity beds, and (as had been previously stated) the Board should take over the Hastings hospital. Nothing with regard to this appeared in the Minutes of the relevant Board meeting.

In 1923, the renewed plan provided for 20 beds as against the original 12 proposed. At that stage of affairs, the Balance Sheet of November 7th 1923 showed that the investments and cash in hand amounted £10657.14. 0.  There had been paid out for the property purchases and improvements £2,796.18.9; legal expenses £11.6.9; architects fees £116.2.4; sewer and water connections £605.4.0; monuments £1,577 (Hastings £877, Havelock £700). These figures show that £15,700 and £52.19.1 had been paid into the fund and the Government Subsidy of £9,000 could now be relied upon.

There now followed considerable difficulty with the plans which were redrawn and that there was some unpleasantness experienced between the Hastings committee and the architects.

During all this time there was considerable feeling among the general public in the Hastings district because of the heavy levies that had been made.

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Yet another appeal to the Board:-

This time there were indications of a change of attitude of several members of the Board who were previously antagonistic to any Hastings scheme. It was still the intention of the Hastings committee to hand over the hospital free of encumbrances. It became apparent that the usual lengthy negotiations whereby discussion had to take place between the Hastings committee, the Hospital Board, the Department of Health and the architects were causing endless delays. Tenders were now being called for the proposed building, however.

Finally, on the 27th August 1924 the site of the building was actually pegged and levels taken.


On 18 May 1924 tenders were actually considered by the Board; the lowest was £25,000, against  the architect’s estimate of £22,000. The sums available were £21,500 to £22,000, the deficiency therefore being £3,000 to £4,000. The Board decided to allocate £3,500 for this purpose, subject to the Health Department’s approval.

The Hastings committee was still determined not to commit the people of Hastings to costs greater than the money available.

At one of the many deputations to Dr Valentine, he refused to accept the Board’s proposal to make the grant of £3,500 for the deficiency already mentioned.

Further Delays:-

It becomes abundantly clear, on reading the report, that the delays of all sorts were of quite staggering proportions. This also applies to the delays in invitations to tender for, on the 22nd September Mr Ebbett wrote to Dr Valentine in this way “Is there anything new at all in the position bearing on this matter? Have you any information as to when tenders will be called? Unless something is done, another summer will be gone and still nothing achieved. Is there anything at all we could do to help to come to some finality?”

However, eventually, the lowest tender was available at £19,800.

“Now, instead of the elusively abstracted difficulties and interminable delays seemingly leading to nowhere, the committee had plenty of solid, practical matters to consider  and at this stage it appeared they would  have at least some surplus money and there would still be a number of outstanding subscriptions to do something with.

Obviously, the Christmas of 1926 came much more pleasantly and more satisfactorily to the members of the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Committee than the six previous ones.”

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Realization – 1927/28:-

Early in 1927 the contractors actually began work on the building and the local people helped with such things as furniture, trees, radios and beds. An extract from the Hawke’s Bay Herald of April 11th 1928 is as follows: “Hastings Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital has now been completed and all is ready for the formal opening ceremony to be performed on Anzac Day, either by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Health”.

It was not expected, however, that the hospital would be ready to receive patients until about the middle of May.

The Building:-

The building was described as: “Consisting of a central block of the hospital containing nurses’ living quarters, nurses’ dining room, kitchen, pantry, doctors’ living quarters, dispensary and other administrative offices.

There was also the Nurses’ Home on the left wing of the hospital, the general sick wards, operating theatres, sterilizing plant, emergency accommodation and a large sun porch.

The right wing consisted of general wards, also the Maternity Section, nursery and children’s sun porch.

A good deal was made of the Sterilizing Plant which was made in Christchurch at a cost of £400.

The wards provided accommodation for 20 patients, including maternity cases and there was room, in addition, on the sun porches and verandahs for another ten, making a total of 30 beds.

On the 17th April it was reported that the Medical Staff at Napier had been increased by 2 and the Nursing Staff by 11 to prepare for the opening of the Hastings Hospital.

The Medical Superintendent at that time made the following recommendation: “That in addition to its use as a Maternity Home, it should also be used as a Convalescence Home for Hastings patients, particularly children, and that 1 or 2 beds should be kept for emergency cases.”

He further recommended that no Residential or Honorary Staff would be required if the hospital was to be used for this purpose and he continued -”that, should Honorary Staff be appointed, the very natural tendency would be to increase the scope of work done at the hospital, with an added increase in the amount of equipment necessary”.

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These recommendations were upheld by Dr Valentine.

It was apparent that it was not the intention that Hastings should become a base hospital, even the suggestion of an X-ray Plant was not acceptable.

Opening Ceremony – Anzac day, 25th April 1928:-

The Opening Speech was made by Mr Ebbett. He and others emphasized that the building was a Memorial to those men who were killed in the 1914 – 1918 war. He later said that, at the time, the district could not support two base hospitals and he hoped that the Hastings hospital would be used, so to speak, as a Ward to Napier.

Mr Young, Minister of Health, expressed the hope that it would be possible to establish a Pre-natal Clinic in the Maternity Section of the hospital. He later said that he hoped the Medical men would not get control of it and turn the Maternity cases into Medical and Surgical cases.

Maternity Home 1928 – 1931:-

What appears to have been a very vexed question of an Ante-natal Clinic was later settled by the Misses McHardy, offering £560 for the purpose of establishing an Ante-natal Clinic, though eventually the money was used for an Outpatient Department.

The hospital was properly opened on 1st August 1928 for maternity cases only.

Maternity Cases Only:-

Mr Ebbett said at the final meeting of the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers’ Memorial Committee on February 12th 1929 That the hospital should be an auxiliary emergency hospital as well as a Maternity Home but that, only maternity cases had been admitted and he complained that, at that date, it appeared that the Hospital Board had no intention of seeing that arrangements were made for other cases. He added that the general public had given money for an emergency hospital and maternity hospital and were not getting what they had paid for.

An interesting slant was given by the Superintendent of those days, who said “As to convalescent children, they are extraordinarily liable to infection and any infection might go across to the maternity side. For this reason, nearly all the children in Napier Hospital are kept in quarantine. It is obviously undesirable to have adult male convalescents in the same hospital as maternity convalescents”.

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Outpatient Department:-

The suggestion of an Outpatient Department was made in June, 1929 but the Medical Superintendent reported unfavourably, on the grounds that he could not spare a House Surgeon to travel between Napier and Hastings.

In March, however, the Health Department said that they would supply free-of-charge drugs and dressings provided these were debited to the District Nursing Association.

At that time, it was mentioned that serious cases could still be treated at Royston Private Hospital at the Board’s expense.

April 1929:-

The first year was now over and completed and mention is made that a nurse would be provided by the Hospital Board to work at the Outpatient Clinic though no such building existed. The District Nurse’s activities were to remain as previously, with the understanding that she would use the Outpatient Department for doing such things as dressings, where necessary.

Position at the end of 1930:-

At this time, it seemed to be tacitly accepted by everybody that the Hastings Hospital continue as a Maternity Home only. Although it was definitely arranged and understood by the Memorial Committee that a proportion of the beds would be reserved for emergency and Casualty cases, beds had been continuously filled with maternity cases.

The position at this date was therefore that there was a satisfactory Maternity Hospital which constituted a worthy Soldiers’ Memorial. There was a department for Hastings outpatients, a very efficient District Nursing Scheme and a Maori District Nurse. Urgent cases were dealt with by an especially satisfactory ambulance service to Napier and by arrangement with the well equipped Royston Private Hospital, which appeared to work reasonably satisfactorily.

Nevertheless, there was no general hospital accommodation in Hastings and this position appeared to be stabilized for an indefinite number of years – and, after all, Napier had won

For all that, the idea of a General Hospital in Hastings was by no means dead and awaited only a suitable opportunity to reassert itself.

1931 earthquake:-

In February 1931 the disastrous earthquake wrecked Napier Hospital and rendered it virtually unusable. A temporary hospital was therefore set up in Napier Park Racecourse; patients were evacuated from Napier to towns further south. The McHardy Maternity Home was also badly damaged and patients were moved to a Marquee on the Napier Park Racecourse.

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In Hastings the Memorial Hospital suffered no serious structural damage but an Emergency Station was established in the building of the Hastings Racecourse. A dressing station was also set up by the  Red Cross for dealing with minor casualties. Approximately 200 such cases were dealt with daily.

The Emergency Station at the Racecourse in Hastings was staffed by medical men of the town and by the staff of the Royston Private Hospital, which had, as previously mentioned, suffered considerable structural damage.

As a result of this disaster, once again the question of a Hastings General Hospital was pressed and was urged by the Hastings Borough Council on March 5th.

There then arose the possibility of making Hastings a Base Hospital and this appears to have been proposed because Napier had suffered so severely; indeed, to such an extent that many people considered Napier could not be rebuilt.

Long, stormy, and contentious meetings were held and much correspondence crisscrossing with Ministerial visits, and numerous meetings and deputations ensued. There was a feeling by the Health Department that this request was rather like kicking a man when he was down, in a mean attempt to take advantage of the position of Napier, and the Hastings campaign was given little sympathy or encouragement. The plan had, indeed no chance from the beginning and faded out. Nevertheless, it was undoubtedly one of the several factors which ultimately brought about the provision of the General Hospital for Hastings.

The Kelly Bequest:-

A dramatic state of affairs then developed when it became known that Miss Henrietta Lavinia Kelly (who lost her life in the Masonic Hotel in Napier on February 3rd, during the earthquake) had left what was estimated to be £35,000 for the building and general purposes for the Hastings Hospital.

With the Government Subsidy, this would be approximately £70,000 and Napier Hospital proposed to apply to the Loans Board for authority to raise the loan to £82,500 to start rebuilding Napier.

This was strongly opposed by Hastings who pointed out that there were perfectly good buildings at Hastings and £70,000 was, moreover, available for additions.

However, the picture changed considerably when it became known that the Kelly Estate consisted largely of mortgaged securities, not due for various terms of years and in the existing economic conditions, the Government would not pay subsidies.

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Nevertheless the Board seemed to be reconciled to the fact that General Hospital accommodation in Hastings was inevitable and it must be faced.

On March 31st 1933, the Superintendent reported “The Racecourse Emergency Hospital has continued to deal with cases in the district. The maternity work of the whole district has fallen on the Maternity Home in Hastings. McHardy Home, Napier has been quite out of action for that work. Early in March all maternity patients at Hastings were moved back into the Maternity buildings. This state of affairs can only be of a temporary measure”.

These patients had been in a marquee as the temporary measure.

Prior to the earthquake, not less than 30% of the Napier Hospital patients came from Hastings. Hastings, at this time, served a population of between 17,000 and 19,000. On the 20th April, the Hastings members pressed that it was not a Maternity Hospital only and it was now up to the board to honour the contract made with the subscribers and make the Hospital available for both purposes. The earthquake had demonstrated the need and the time had fully come when the Hospital should be available for accident, as well as maternity cases. With the coming of winter, the temporary hospital at the Racecourse was closing down and on May 18th  the Health Department had reluctantly agreed and general patients were taken from the Racecourse to the Maternity Hospital.

1931 – 1934:

At a Public Meeting in Hastings there was a demand that Memorial Hospital be opened immediately as a General Hospital, with 40 to 50 beds and other provision made for maternity cases; and the necessity for additions to the existing buildings was recognised. This would provide 25 additional beds, making a total of 34. On the 27th May at a Board Meeting a Resolution was passed that provision for adequate accommodation at Hastings was unanimously confirmed by the Board. On the 14th June 1931 it was interesting to note that there were 10 Sisters and nurses at Hastings, there being 24 patients at the hospital.

In Napier there were 25 Sisters and nurses.

During the previous month at Hastings general patients had been admitted; 50 general patients and 45 discharged, while 35 patients were admitted to the Maternity Section and 24 babies were born. To the Outpatient Department, 64 cases had made 250 visits and 19 attendances had been made to the Antenatal Clinic.

Hastings seemed to have settled down as a small General and Maternity Hospital, with 23 and 7 beds respectively, with an Antenatal Clinic and Outpatient Department in operation and the prospect of further increased accommodation.

Another long delay.

In 1931 a petition was made to the Minister of Health, said to represent 10,000 people, pointing out that out of the £30,000 Memorial Hospital

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cost £21,000 was contributed by the people of Hastings and district and asked whether Hastings was to receive a hospital adequate to its means and whether Hastings people were to be saddled with the heavy costs and expenses proposed at Napier. Also, they demanded at this time a 100 bed hospital for the nucleus of a General Hospital. The Minister pointed out that the Board had asked for 150 beds at Napier and had made no provision for Hastings. The Minister also said that he had no legal right to tell the Board what to do. He said that if a 50 bed hospital at Hastings was approved it should not be taken for granted that it would be the nucleus of a rival hospital to Napier. He pointed out in addition that it was on the strength of the Kelly Bequest that money was available. There seems to be evidence that there was nothing to show the money would be available for at least four years.

The Director-General of Health again emphasized the policy of the Department that the establishment and maintenance of two moderately sized General Hospitals within 14 miles of each other by excellent roads would be warranted only in exceptional circumstances.

The question of maintenance appears to have been the stumbling block for the proposed additions to Hastings Hospital but in the years 1931-32 Hastings was being used as a Maternity and General Hospital and again the reference was made to the Henrietta Lavinia Kelly Bequest of £35,000 and it was considered that the revenue from the Bequest would go far towards providing funds for the maintenance of the Memorial Hospital.

McHardy Home Maternity Hospital 1931-32:-

McHardy Home was now about to reopen and the Health Department put to the Board a proposal to establish a District Maternity Nursing Service covering the whole district. This proposal appeared that the Health Department was making an attempt to close the Hastings Institution as a General Hospital and make it again a purely Maternity Hospital.

It appears to be extremely fortunate that the tenacity of Mr Ebbett had passed on to Messrs Duff and McKee.

There were still no further additions to the Hastings Hospital in spite of deputations to the Health Department.

At long last, an anonymous donation of £4,000, together with the sum of £2,000 previously given by the Lowry Family, enabled the Chairman of the Board (on 12th April 1935) to say – “I have to report that all our difficulties in connection with the additions to the Hastings Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital buildings had been overcome and the work of enlarging the hospital is proceeding satisfactorily”.

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The additions were, in fact, opened on the 25th June 1935. At the Opening, it was mentioned that one of the conditions made by the anonymous donor of the £4,000 was that a Plunket Nurse should take charge in the Maternity Department and at the Opening Ceremony of the Hastings additions Mr Duff said – “For the moment our work is finished and in my judgement the completion of the work is an indication of right over might. The right of the people must be paramount. Because the people needed the hospital, no Minister, no Department, no power on earth could prevent the peoples’ right being realized. That makes it a momentous occasion”.

Past achievements and future programme: 1938:-

In May 1938 it was noted that –
1.           A new block containing an Operating Theatre and Outpatient Department had been provided.
2.           Nurses had been provided with an up-to-date swimming pool.

The future programme was –
1.           A new Home for trained nursing staff
2.           Children’s Ward
3.           Modern X-ray equipment
4.           Further recreation facilities for nursing staff

Tenders for these were accepted in 1940, while extra maternity accommodation had been made available in 1935 and 1936,

1939 – 1945:-

Members of the Staff were away overseas and served in the Armed Forces during this time and various projects and buildings were deferred.

Nevertheless, the new Children’s Ward and the Nurses’ Home were officially opened in 1942 and the Antenatal Clinic in 1941.

Tentative plans were proposed for a new hospital and were submitted by the architects in 1943.

“This is a date at which to pause. The actions preceding some negotiations to give effect to an idea which was born as far back as 1906. Development to its present stage in 1943 required the time, labour and thought of many hands and brains over many years. Its pathway was often arduous, difficult and troublesome and it was hoped that the generation which had already risen and those to come in the years henceforth would acquire at least some knowledge of the difficulties, perplexities and disappointments which it was necessary to overcome throughout the years to bring the Hawke’s Bay Fallen Soldiers Memorial Hospital at Hastings to its present stage at that date.”

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1945 to 1978:-

Shortly after the War it was apparent that there was a sharp rise in the birthrate and this, combined with the fact that Sister Cooper’s private maternity hospital was being closed down, made it essential to plan for the future and provide an additional 12 beds and furthermore, during this stage, overcrowding in Hastings had been considerable – even to the extent of having permanent beds with permanent lights in the corridors.

It became obvious that a future overall plan must be adopted.

During the years 1950 to 1951 a multi-storey building was contemplated to replace the original building prior to 1935. This would comprise 120 beds, servicing and Theatre blocks.

During May 1950 there was Departmental approval, with the preparation of a sketch plan for a new Maternity Block of 40 beds.

The suggestion was eventually evolved that over the next ten years plans should be based on the development of Napier to 350 beds and Hastings to 250 and the total of 600 beds might be replaced with a total of 650 in the next twenty years.

It is noteworthy that at a special Board Meeting, held  on 30th March 1950, Mr E.W. Bate, Chairman of the Hawke’s Bay Hospital, (now Sir Edwin)  pointed out that any hospital having a full range of surgical accommodation must have a laboratory, x-ray and other services.

There had always been antagonism between the two hospitals, and at this time, it surely reached a peak. At least part of the cause was the fact that Hastings had no chronic beds, as such, but these did exist in Napier for this particular purpose and also, Hastings had no beds for infectious diseases.

As a result of this, these patients were sent through to Napier, as a Board Policy. It appeared that this was not clearly understood by either the medical or nursing staff or house staff and a very unhappy state of affairs existed for many years.

As has already been stated, in the Introduction, this animosity is now a thing of the past. That a very harmonious and amicable state exists at the present time is due to a number of factors.

Firstly, the opening of the new block in Hastings on 24th May, 1961 ensured that there was adequate space for patients and overcrowding was no longer existent. Therefore, the cause of annoyance to the Napier staff was removed.

Secondly, the development of harmony was helped by the fact that a number of the members of the visiting and full time staff were appointed to both hospitals.

The wise and tactful direction of the Medical Superintendent-in-Chief, Dr Grimboldby, was an important factor in the development of the harmony between the two hospitals.

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Years of Development:-

From this time on to 1978 the progress of the hospital was largely one of development. All the substandard wards in the original building were altered.

In 1951 the Junior Chamber of Commerce was largely instrumental in the erection of a Physiotherapy Department.

A new Boiler House was built; the kitchen and pantries were all enlarged; an additional Nurses’ Home was built in 1952; Laboratory and x-ray departments were established. A generous donation by Mr Robert Harding enabled a recreational hall for nurses to be built.

The Maternity Wing was increased to 42 beds in 1954/55.

The greatest advance, however, was the planning and building of the five storey block, comprising wards, theatres and other services, together with service block, pharmacy, administration and lifts. The work commenced in January 1958.

For many years the nursing staff had expressed a wish to have a hospital chapel and largely by their energy and enthusiasm their plans were realized. Very appropriately the original entrance to the hospital was used for this purpose. The chapel was dedicated in August, 1964.

The following are the statistics for 1949/50 and 1959/60:-

Number of patients treated                                       1949/50 – 2567               1959/60 – 272
Average number of patients occupying beds              1949/50 – 107                  1959/60 – 117.9
Operations performed                                               1949/50 – 1531               1959/60 – 2463
No. of outpatients attending                                      1949/50 – 21608              1959/60 – 30688
District nurses visits to homes                                  1949/50 – 4692                1959/60 – 12809
Average number of staff employed                             1949/50 – 220                  1959/60 – 377

The opening of the new block in 1961 made a very considerable difference to the progress of the hospital. Not only did it alleviate the overcrowding that had been such an upsetting business for all concerned, creating considerable difficulties, inadequate nursing care, etc., but it also enabled better nursing care to be given, with the better facilities, and areas previously occupied by patients could give expansion to such important departments as x-ray, laboratory and so on. From this step on the hospital developed extremely rapidly in all ways and in all departments.

The X-ray Department was also enlarged considerably. It had started in an extremely small way with a portable x-ray machine, under Dr O.C. Moller, originally a physician. Over the years, other special departments have been developed,

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such as orthopaedic, opthalmology and one of the more recent is that of paediatrics, gynaecology and obstetrics.

With the opening of the new block, the concept of Intensive Care was started and Intensive Care and Intensive Cardiological Care was begun in (1960)  ??? [sic] in Ward 9.

A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit was also established shortly after this and more recently (in 1970) a Department of Anaesthetics together with special consultants on respiratory problems, specialists in this field.

With the opening of the new block, the status of the hospital was raised and this necessitated the appointment of a Medical Superintendent, (Dr Neville Reece).

Wattie Professorship:-

It was Dr Reece (Rees) who was instrumental in starting the Wattie Professorship.

The Wattie Family has been extremely generous to Hawke’s Bay generally and established a Wattie Professorship in 1967. Each year, members of the medical staff can choose an outstanding specialist in any field to visit the hospital for a week or more to lecture and to see patients in his particular field. It is difficult to emphasize sufficiently the enormous benefit that is brought to this district by these visits.

Psychiatric Unit:-

Hastings Hospital was the first hospital in New Zealand to have a Psychiatric Unit attached to a General Hospital. Previously, psychiatric units were large institutions, few of which existed. The Psychiatric Unit in Hastings was opened in 1967.


By now (1970) it had been found that the Maternity Annexe was inadequate in every way. It was a very old building, with extremely poor facilities and drawings were started for a Maternity Wing to be built on to the new Surgical Block. This was officially opened on 1st October, 1971 although it had been in use since the August of that year.

Nurses Homes:-

Mention has been made in this history of Nurses’ Homes. Of recent years, it has been the wish of the nurses, both on the staff and in training, to live outside and this has meant that the Nurses’ Homes are largely empty, defeating their original purpose.

Nurses’ training:-

Since the start of the admission of general cases to the hospital, considerable changes have occurred in nurses’ training.

In July 1939, the hospital became an AB Grade School of Nursing and during this period, six months infectious nurses’ training was carried out in Napier.

For many years, the results of local training were very good and this was particularly the case in 1942, when of the first class, all six nurses graduated, all gaining honours in their State Examination.

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In 1954 the hospital became an A Grade School of Nursing and in 1957 the new curriculum was introduced, including maternity training.

For some years there had been discussion on the introduction of a different type of nurses’ training, of a shorter duration and for those not able to manage the full Registered Nurses’ training. In 1965, the first Community Nurse Class began.

Another new innovation was made in 1966, when the first male student commenced training and in May of the same year the last State First Professional Examination was held.

Similarly, in 1970, the last Class for 18 months Maternity Student was carried out.

Another change in nursing policy regarding training occurred in 1971. Up to this time, the training had been done independently in Hastings, but in 1971 the Hawke’s Bay School of Nursing was established, whereby the whole of the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board was merged into one training school.


Prior to the building of Hastings Hospital, a number of doctors in Hastings were members of the Honorary Staff in Napier. When the hospital was built in Hastings in 1928, the doctors in the district looked after their own maternity cases. When it developed into a General Hospital, they resigned from their appointments on the Napier Staff and were appointed to Hastings.

In those days these appointments were of a purely honorary nature, whereby they received no salary and no honorarium and the concept of a salary only started in 19…

It should, in addition, be pointed out that at this stage there were no fulltime Medical Officers nor House Surgeons. All the care of the patients fell on the shoulders of the Honorary Staff (including anaesthetics, casualties, outpatients, and so on).

The first full time salaried Medical Officer to be appointed was Dr Walter Reeve (in 1937). His duties were many and included those of giving anaesthetics, attending to casualties, the Outpatient Department, sometimes doing minor surgery, acting as a sort of House Surgeon on occasion, carrying out antenatal duties and deliveries in the Maternity Annexe for women who had no doctor, and, as he was on the spot, he inevitably found himself carrying out administrative duties.

The house at present occupied by Dr Broughton, the Assistant Medical Superintendent was built for Dr Walter Reeve.

The Hospital’s first House Surgeon was Dr S Webber, appointed in 1939. The first Assistant Medical Superintendent (as opposed to Medical Superintendent) was Dr Broughton, appointed in January 1946 and the first Medical Superintendent was appointed (as has already been mentioned) in 19… ,being Dr Neville Reece (Rees). Therefore, from no original Medical Staff for the General Hospital in 1928 it has grown from 1 in 1937 to a total of Visiting Staff 32, Full Time Staff 5, House Surgeons and Registrars 12.

Page 16

When the hospital was originally opened for general cases the honorary staff consisted of general practitioners, some of whom had higher qualifications.

The first purely specialist appointment was that of Dr E.W. Griffiths in 19…, who when serving as an ear, nose and throat specialist with the R.A.F. in Singapore was killed by the Japanese.

Now there is a very different state of affairs, as is shown by the following figures:-

Anaesthetists and Respiratory Physicians – 3
Paediatricians – 3
General Surgeons – 4
Physicians – 5
Outpatients – 1
Child Psychiatrist – 1
Pathologists – 2
Ear, nose & throat – 2
Obstetricians & Gynaecologists – 2
Orthopaedic Surgeons – 3
Dermatologist – 1

All appointments are to the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board and although some of the staff, both visiting and full time, work in both hospitals, a number work in one hospital only.

In addition to this, there are Specialists who visit Hastings from Napier from time to time and also Specialists who visit from Wellington.

Also, there are now many special fields covered by paramedical staff, such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, dietitians, school teaching, clinical photography, electronic engineering, visiting specialising therapists, etc.

Nursing Staff:-

When the hospital was opened as a Maternity Hospital in 1928, Sister Owen was appointed in charge. There were 10 sisters and nurses and 24 patients. When the hospital developed to take general cases, Sister Sellar was first in charge, and then Sister Russell – who was later appointed Matron in April 1943.

From a nucleus of 10 sisters and nurses in 1928, this hospital now has a total of 238 nurses.

Extramural Service:-

On 7th June 1977 the Minister of Health advised the Chairman of the Hospital Board by telegram that the Government had approved the additional expenditure of 4.075 million dollars for specific community health projects by Hospital Boards and the Department of Health. The Minister subsequently directed the Director General of Health to write to the Hospital Boards, explaining the Government’s view and intention in this regard.

Page 17

This is really a Government Policy to attempt to reverse the trend for increasing health care resources within the hospital service, the aim being to provide a Community Health Service by various personnel and equipment outside the hospitals, as opposed to within the hospitals. This organisation was, in fact, started on 9th September, 1977.

The following table gives a comparison of the statistics for the years 1929, 1950, and 1977.

Year – Maternity Beds – General – Total – Operations – Outpatients

1929 – 30 – 0     – 30   – 0       – 0

1950 – 28 – 121 – 149 – 1531 – 21,608

1977 – 50 – 316 – 381 – 3759 – 65,951

+15 Psychiatric

The Future:-

There are obviously grave disadvantages in having hospitals of rather similar size only 12 miles apart. Inevitably there must be duplication of staff and equipment and now that much of the equipment is highly sophisticated and extremely expensive, this leads to unnecessary expense in many cases.

A Utopian situation would be to have a hospital situated approximately halfway between the cities but this idea would obviously never have been entertained in 1928. In any case, it would probably have been impractical for a number of reasons.

Hindsight is never available at the time and probably the situation as it now exists was unavoidable.

However, a reassuring character of this situation is the tendency to develop a speciality and a special department in one hospital and a different one in another.

For instance, there is a Nuclear Medicine Department in Napier and not in Hastings, whereas there is a neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Hastings and not in Napier.

It is pointed out that these special units serve the Hawke’s Bay Hospital Board area, which comprises Wairoa, Napier, Hastings and districts of each and often further afield, such as Waipawa Hospital Board.


The administration and running of a hospital is a very complex affair involving many people of many disciplines. Appreciation must be given to the skilled tradesmen, such as electricians and plumbers; the expertise of such departments as x-ray, physiology, pathology, etc; the clerical staff, cleaners, kitchen staff, porters, etc, in addition to medical and nursing staff.

Page 18

Although the hospital has developed enormously in every field, a great deal still remains to be done; overcrowding and poor facilities still exist. Unfortunately, owing to financial stringency, it has been impossible to continue with the planned expansion and this particularly applies to the CH Block.

This Block would comprise outpatient facilities, x-ray, new wards, and a new theatre, all of which are badly needed.

When looking back on the original concept of the hospital in 1906 to its opening in 1928, one is filled with admiration for the tenacity, forethought and zeal of those individuals who brought the hospital to its fruition and present high standard in 1978.

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