The Palmerston North Hospital is turning 125 in 2018.
The Palmerston North Hospital was born out of a need for people living in the wider Manawatū region to have a hospital of their own.
An 1885 Parliamentary Act placed Palmerston North under the Whanganui Hospital Board, which meant sick and injured people had to take a train journey to Whanganui for treatment.
Driven by a desire for better access to healthcare, community members acquired land, petitioned the Government to change the legislation and organised a host of fundraising activities to pay for the build.
The Palmerston North Hospital in 1926.
New legislation was finally passed in 1891, prompting the creation of a Palmerston North Hospital and Charitable Board.
Using money from land sales, fundraising and donations, the hospital was built on its present Ruahine Street site for a sum of £3,700, about three times the initial budget.
When it opened in 1893, the hospital was a small facility featuring four wards, including a private ward/operating theatre, that could cater for up to 25 patients. However, the building had no electricity, with staff and patients relying on open flame and gas for heat and light.
The hospital was staffed by three nurses, two doctors, a cook, a maid and a gardener. One of those nurses, Ellen Dougherty (pictured right), became well known for being the hospital’s first matron and the world’s first registered nurse.
One of the more colourful figures in the hospital’s history was Dr Arthur Anderson Martin (pictured below), better known as AA Martin. Dr Martin served in the South African War as a civil surgeon before returning to New Zealand in 1903 to become a Senior Surgeon at Palmerston North Hospital. He later served in France during World War 1, and it was there that he died
of wounds in 1916, aged 40. In 1917, he was awarded a posthumous Distinguished Service Order.
The hospital has seen a number of milestones over the years, including the start of district nursing in 1914, obtaining X-ray equipment in 1931, opening up a chapel in 1957 and starting the country’s first Coronary Care Unit in 1966.
In 1970, a new $10m hospital building was built, and in the same year the Manawaroa Centre for Psychological Medicine was opened. In 1976, the hospital became the site of New Zealand’s first detoxification unit, and in 1979 the hospital’s first dental unit was established.
In 1986, Te Whare Rapuora was opened at the hospital to offer Māori a place where their health needs would be catered for in a culturally appropriate manner. The concept proved popular, with a number of similar centres being opened throughout New Zealand.
The Palmerston North Hospital in 1914.
In 2001, the hospital completed a major site redevelopment project. The $56 million investment followed six years of hard work and planning and resulted in upgraded buildings providing an attractive and functional environment for patients, visitors and staff.
The Palmerston North Hospital of today has 350 inpatient beds and provides health services for tens of thousands of people in the MidCentral DHB area. The modern hospital features a dedicated Intensive Care Unit, Coronary Care Unit and Neonatal Unit, among a host of other services, and provides one of the largest trauma centres in New Zealand.
More information about the history of the hospital can be found in A Century of Care: Palmerston North Hospital, 1893-1993, which can be found at the Palmerston North Library.
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