Topic: Three Generations at Tauranga Hospital

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by Megan Stewart

 The Fergus family have certainly cemented their roots in Tauranga Hospital, with four members from three generations working at the hospital since 1960 to today.

In 1960 Dr Basil Fergus migrated from South Africa to what was a small town hospital at that time. While he was at the hospital covering the doctors who went away during the Vietnam War, Basil became the founding anaesthetist for the team that started both the Intensive Care Unit and the Emergency Department. Although it only started with two beds in a small room at the back of the Theatre, the ICU was only the second in New Zealand at the time, after Auckland.

His daughter Heather worked as a nurse from 1977-1987 and was in the second-to-last group of nurses to be trained at the hospital. In 1977 nurses’ pay was less than $100 a fortnight, with $8 a week going to food and lodgings at the Nurses’ Home.

The matrons were well renowned as ‘tough as old boots’ but Heather tells of plenty of shenanigans that still went on; in Ward 9 (ENT Ward) all House Officers leaving the hospital got dunked in a cold bath of ice and water, and were ‘warmed up’ afterwards with a parting muffin loaded with Senacot (laxative) and hot tea laced with diuretics. 


Daughter-in-law Judy Fergus started as a nurse in 1969 and after a training break, returned as a midwife in 1977. Still in the Maternity Unit today, she just can’t tear herself away from this place. And finally, Basil’s granddaughter, Megan Stewart, has been nursing at the hospital for seven years now and is still thoroughly enjoying her time in the Emergency Department. The shenanigans may not be as obvious in 2014, but Megan insists the camaraderie between colleagues is still second to none - Tauranga Hospital remains an amazing and innovative place to work just as the generations before her have seen.

Doctor Basil Fergus on his 88th birthday with his daughter Heather and granddaughter Megan

Retired Doctor Basil Fergus on his 88th birthday with his daughter Heather and granddaughter Megan; all have worked at Tauranga Hospital at some stage since 1960.

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