Starship Hospital celebrates 21st anniversary

By Brendan Manning

Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland. File photo / Natalie Slade
Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland. File photo / Natalie Slade

New Zealand's largest children's hospital celebrated it's 21st anniversary today.

A special afternoon tea was held at Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland to celebrate the event.

The purpose-built children's hospital was one of the first of its kind built in New Zealand, and is the largest in the country.

The hospital was first proposed in 1981, and the Government agreed to fund its construction in 1988. It was completed on 18 November, 1991.

Dr Elizabeth Segedin, who was MC for the event, described the hospital as an emerging adolescent.

"It's not perfect, but it's unstoppable."

Former patient Campbell MacKenzie, 13, spent the first few weeks of his life at the hospital and sang 'happy birthday' at the event.

"I had a condition - basically I couldn't eat or breathe properly - and Starship fixed it.

"I don't actually remember much of it, but from what Mum and Dad told me Starship fixed my problem."

Mr MacKenzie said he decided he wanted to give something back to the hospital a couple of years ago, and has been putting his musical talents to use my busking on the streets of Auckland to raise money for the hospital.

He estimated he has raised about $3500 for the hospital through his busking, which he does predominantly during NZ Music Month.

"I just go out there with my guitar and my sign, and hand it [the money] in at the end of the month."

Veteran nurse Elizabeth Hunter, known to all as "Tizzle" said she had been at the hospital since it was first built.

"It was just a hole in the ground when I first started [as a trainee nurse at Auckland Hospital] and they told us how we would be working at Princess Mary during our training, but it was going to be pulled down and a new hospital would be built.

"I moved into Starship when it opened, so the day it opened I was helping to move the children with whooping cough (we had a whooping cough epidemic at the time) and we had several little babies coughing and going blue in the ambulance on the way up the hill."

Ms Hunter said she worked part-time at the hospital while she had children of her own, and is still working there now - as a staff nurse in the day stay unit.

It was a privilege and a real joy to look after children for a profession, she said.

"It's just so much fun, and the families are fun and the children don't know they're supposed to be sick, so you see adults in there lying in their beds.

"Children, they'll have an operation and an hour later they're out of their beds, running around and just getting on with life."

- APNZ

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