The Help Our Kids fundraising campaign for Starship's operating theatres has passed the halfway mark.

This afternoon's update on the Herald and Starship Foundation campaign shows it has raised $89,158 - more than half way to the target of $150,000.

Actress and Starship foundation board member Lucy Lawless tweeted her appreciation:

The campaign is to help raise money for equipment in the new theatre being built at the Auckland-based Starship, New Zealand's national children's hospital, and for four other theatres that are being refurbished.

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Starship opened in 1991. Built at a cost of $78 million, it replaced the Princess Mary Hospital, a cluster of dilapidated buildings that had been erected for temporary use in the 1940s.

Starship's cancer ward was rebuilt in 2008/9 and the neurological services and medical specialties wards were done last year. A number of areas have had high-tech medical machines installed, such MRI and CT scanners in the radiology department.

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The theatres suite has had some additions, including the creation of two cardiac theatres that opened in 2003, but never a major refit of the original operating rooms, which are now considered tired and outdated. The cardiac theatres, however, are still considered quite adequate and are not being changed.

Three theatres were built in the original Starship. A fourth, smaller, operating room was later created by converting what had been the room for putting plaster casts on children's fractured arms and legs.

With the development of new surgical techniques and equipment - and population growth - the number of patients being treated in the theatres has increased greatly - from 4500 a year before 1998, to more than 9000 by 2009.

"Further increase is not currently possible, and so an increasing number of cases are going out to the private sector and to the Greenlane surgical unit," according to the book written to mark Starship's 21st birthday and edited by Dr Lochie Teague, the clinical director of paediatric haematology and oncology.

The Starship Foundation fundraising charity has pledged $3.1 million towards the Auckland District Health Board's paediatric ORs project.

Stage one was completed in July. This included a new and enlarged pre-operative and parent waiting area, with more side rooms for privacy, a rebuilt day-stay play room and Radio Lollipop, and a bathroom.

Stage two, completed last month, was the enlarging of the post-anaesthetic care unit where patients go after surgery.

Work started this month on the seventh operating room and is timed for completion in December. The upgrading of theatres, to be done one by one, also began this month, with the first of the four expected to be complete by next month and the last by April.

The new theatre, at 66sq m, will be significantly larger than the four do-ups, which range from 33 to 44sq m, although the cardiac theatres are both 60sq m or greater. Size matters. Having more space reduces the chances of staff bumping into each other or tripping. Up to 15 people, including trainees watching, can be in the room for some operations.

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