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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 11, May 1969

By THELMA CRIMMINS

A Cottage Hospital for Paeroa was mooted in October 1913 and as a Trust Account of £1000 was available for this purpose, the Thames Hospital Board visited Paeroa and subsequently referred the matter to the Dept. of Health. The application was declined on the grounds that the site was unsuitable and a hospital unnecessary.

Meanwhile War intervened, but in 1920 the matter was again raised and a meeting of various interested bodies held:- 10/8/20 resolved to ask the Board to build a Maternity and Emergency Hospital for Paeroa. This time there was general approval but Supreme Court action was necessary to obtain Trust Funds which had been collected for a general hospital. It was not until 18/12/23 that a Judge (Justice Stringer) ruled in the Board's favour, and Mr. E.E. Gillman of Paeroa was appointed Architect to build a Maternity Hospital with one four-bed ward, two single-bed wards and one two-bed casualty ward and staff accommodation.

Donations and Government Subsidy received by January 1925 amounted to £3,293,6/10d but both the Thames and Hauraki Plains County Councils objected to the capital expenditure. The Department would not agree to a wooden building, while the Hospital Board was not happy to proceed due to the financial state of the country. However, Dr. Valentine, who was then Director-General of Health, was determined to go ahead and submitted plans in May 1926 for a brick building estimated to cost £4,500 to £5,000. After much delay, an Order in Council was passed empowering the Ministry of Works to call tenders and charge the Hospital Board with the cost.

The Hospital Board was informed at its December 1928 meeting that the Director-General of Health had written stating that he could not accept responsibility for passing the subsidy claims to the Board in view of the fact that a tender for £4,948,9/3d had been accepted for the Paeroa building plus £237 for light, power and bell system. As a result, the Board found itself in the embarrassing position of not only being unable to pay accounts but also unable to pay wages due in December and staff would have had no money for Christmas. However, a general election in December, 1928 brought a new Minister of Health who ordered the immediate payment of the subsidy to the Board so that staff were able to receive Christmas pay.

In February 1929, the new Minister of Health together with the Director-General of Health met the T.H.B. in Thames and the Board was persuaded to accept responsibility for the building and running of a new institution. The site was an excellent one on the Waihi Road. The work, their first in the district, was carried out by "Lee Bros." and the final layout was 3 two-bed wards and 1 single bed ward with staff accommodation, kitchen and sanitary arrangements. Miss F.E. Maslin was appointed the first Sister-in-Charge, and on 3/4/30 the Paeroa Hospital was officially opened by the Hon. A. J. Stalworthy, Minister of Health.

One Ward was designated "Nurse Mary Pennell Memorial Ward" and the "Hauraki" ward was for Casualty Patients. Mrs. P. E. Brenan, wife of the Chairman of the Board presented a layette [clothes, toilet articles and bedding, needed for a new-born child – E] and the Deputy Chairman, Mr. J. W Danby a silver mug for the first child born. She was Rose Hopping, who later married Phil Pennell, a great grandson of the revered Nurse Pennell. Residents of Karangahake presented a Chiming Clock. Ground Works including fences and driveway were carried out by the Paeroa Borough Council and supervised by the Mayor, Mr. W. Marshall. (Cost of this work was £665/10/-).

From 1941 till June 1949, Sisters Winifred and Daisy Moore were in charge of the Paeroa Hospital and are remembered with great affection by hundreds of friends and grateful patients. They now conduct a Rest Home at Thornton's Bay, Thames Coast and at our request have sent a paragraph for inclusion in this article.

"1941 – 1949. These nine years stand out as a special period in our Nursing Career; years packed with excitement, worries, joys and experience and over 1,000 babes helped into this world. Not once did the wonder of it all grow less! As we look back at those years we realise that things have changed as they always will. We remember how we stoked that old boiler to give some warmth on cold frosty mornings, and those busy rush periods when a call to the kitchen brought a welcome hand from our splendid cook, Mrs. Hodson, who had had nursing experience in England. Then there were the "black-out" times during World War II (The husbands didn't mind them at 7 – 7.30 p.m., but we found them difficult). We would like to mention the splendid Maori patients with the most wonderful babes in the world. Yes, the days and nights were always busy but there is little that can be more rewarding than the life we chose. Now after twenty more years we can look back and sincerely say that the people of Paeroa and District will always hold a warm place in our hearts".

1954 saw extensions to Staff Quarters and Wards costing £17,315 with new furnishings and equipment costing £462. On 21/7/55 they were opened by the Borough representative on the Thames Hospital Board, Mrs. A.V. Wheeler, later Deputy Mayor of Paeroa, and were dedicated by the late Rev. Archdeacon A. F. Hall.

Further expenditure since then has been considerable, records showing:-

1960 New Heating system (£6885); electrical reticulation (£1,055).

1963 New Theatre and kitchen layout (£17,301).

1965 Road works - rear driveway completed £3,365; Canopy and "Waiting room, £1,660; New front driveway and Car Parking, £2,808.

Paeroa has reason to be proud of the setting and its Maternity Hospital of which Sister Toussaint has been in charge for 19 years 1950 – 1969. She concludes our article:

"During the last twenty years there have been considerable alterations to the Hospital both inside and out - accompanied by much hammering, bricks falling and dust inches thick. But notwithstanding the inevitable headaches and frayed nerves, babies still were born and Staff and Aids carried on, still finding the work worth every bit of inconvenience. How we enjoyed the heavenly peace when all the alterations ended! Joy and sorrow-alternated over the years. We remember Dr. Hazlett's long untiring service followed by his retirement and that of Mrs, Hodson whose help, and kindness to both patients and staff I shall never forget - (nor her cooking either). Dr. Bartrum's illness cut short years of outstanding service.

After all my years of nursing I would not change my lot with anyone nor forfeit the thrill of hearing the first cry of a baby and seeing the expression of wonder on the new mother's face. Now some of my "Babies" are working with me and I hope some of then will carry on with Nursing. Meals on wheels were inaugurated about 5 years ago with about 8 of our elderly citizens and at present 13 meals are delivered. I would like to thank the voluntary drivers who have made this service possible. They are doing a wonderful job.