Sixty years ago Dargaville's new brick and tile hospital on a hill over-looking the district opened with a great deal of pomp and ceremony.

The opening day of Dargaville Hospital in 1956.
The opening day of Dargaville Hospital in 1956.

Last week, staff, community members and Northland health officials celebrated the continued 60 years of service in a sector that has changed considerably in that time. Sixty balloons were released by staff and well-wishers to celebrate the milestone.

Operations manager Jen Thomas said Dargaville Hospital is a great example of the "one-stop shop" model of healthcare which has led to a number of initiatives. Iwi provider Te Ha Oranga and Hospice Kaipara's offices and nursing staff are also based on the site.

The hospital has a 12-bed general ward, a four-bed maternity ward and provides community health services including an on-site laboratory, physiotherapy, occupational therapy services, radiology services by a private provider, visiting consultants and, via the in-house Dargaville Medical Centre, 24-hour emergency cover.

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The two cakes at the ceremony were cut by the longest-serving staff member, enrolled nurse Heather Carter who began working there in 1966, and the most recent starter, clinical head Dr Scott Wilson. The hospital officially opened on February 25, 1956 - minus the maternity ward then still housed at the old Te Kopuru Hospital.

A maternity annex opened at Dargaville and the Te Kopuru one closed in 1971.

In 1994, surgical services were closed by the predecessor to Northland District Health Board and a wider scale closure was threatened. Then Kaipara mayor Peter Brown went to Parliament and obtained a suspensory loan to buy a 46 per cent share in the hospital to ensure it remained a community asset.