Topic: Katikati Maternity Hospital by Ellen McCormack

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The opening of the Katikati Maternity Hospital on Monday 1 June 1942 by Frederick Widdowson Doidge (M.P.) was the culmination of over forty years of continual effort and fundraising by the local community who were determined to obtain medical services for the district. This article on the Katikati Maternity Hospital was written in 2012 by Katikati historian Ellen McCormack.

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Health issues had always been a major concern in Katikati. This was mainly due to the long distances that had to be travelled to reach the nearest doctor or hospital and the treacherous condition of the roads.

In October 1899 George Vesey Stewart called a meeting of interested settlers for the purpose of the formation of a Medical Club with a view to obtaining medical services for Katikati. On 16 October 1899 the Bay of Plenty Times reported  that as Convenor, Mr. Stewart had suggested that Mr. W.J. Reading take the chair, which was duly seconded and carried unanimously. Mr Millar was appointed Hon. Secretary for the meeting which was small but earnest representative and unanimous in the endeavour to bring the matter to a successful issue.

Mr Stewart then opened the proceedings by reading the correspondence that had passed and expressed the hope that all the settlers would unite in the true spirit of co-operation to secure the only one matter wanting in Katikati, enlarging on the fact that 5 pound five shillings [almost 11 dollars] was the lowest fee for which they could at present obtain medical advice; that life was uncertain, accidents might at any time occur and they should bear in mind the old saying ‘’A stitch in time saves nine.’’


Outside the makeshift 'hall hospital' in Katikati during the 1918 influenza pandemic. Photo: Elizabeth Smith.

Over the next few years the Bay of Plenty Times continued to report on the meetings and frustrations of the Medical Club including a serious accident in the bush owned by Cashmore’s Mill and other emergencies.  

For the next thirty-five years the settlers of the district continued to lobby by any means available for a permanent doctor. Doctors had been part of the settlement from the very beginning but most stayed only for a very short time, there just wasn't the population to support them. Each time a tragedy occurred in the district through accident or otherwise, the members of the Medical Club would try desperately to alert the authorities to the seriousness of the situation and the urgent need for a doctor.

It was not until the late 1930's after numerous bush and other accidents that the voice of the people of Katikati was at last heard.

On 15 February 1939 the Bay of Plenty Times reported under the title of 'Katikati League' that  a meeting of the committee of  Katikati Progress League had been held. The secretary advised that he had received a letter from the Commissioner of Crown Lands relative to the request on behalf of the Plunket Society for permission to erect a Plunket and Rest Room on the crown site adjacent to the Picture Theatre. In the same report mention is made regarding the possibility of housing both a Dental Clinic and Plunket rooms together. The proposal for a Cottage Hospital was discussed with the meeting being advised that the Assistant  Director of Health would probably be visiting Katikati in the near future when the matter would be discussed further.

Over a year later, on 4 May 1940, the Bay of Plenty Times reported on the Annual meeting of the Katikati Progress League including the proposed hospital. Mr Hyde, Representative of the Tauranga Hospital Board said that the Tauranga Hospital and Charitable Aid Board had already called for tenders for the erection [in wood] of a four bed Maternity Hospital and approximately six thousand pounds had been placed on the estimates for the cost of the building. In addition fifteen hundred pounds for furniture had been allowed. A suitable section had been purchased, situated at the intersection of Park and Beach Road, and it was hoped to see the building completed this year. 

Katikati Maternity Hospital (1942)
Katikati Maternity Hospital prior to opening in 1942. Photo: Alice Macmillan.

Mr. Hyde pointed out that there were 77 Katikati patients treated in the Tauranga hospital during the last twelve months, and of these most of the cases were accidents, and could well have been treated locally had there been the necessary facilities. The question of a permanent doctor was then discussed.

Another eighteen months came and went and on 15 January 1942 the Bay of Plenty Times reported from a Tauranga Hospital Board meeting that the building had been completed but not yet furnished. Dr Mark was unable to supervise the Katikati Hospital as he was already fully occupied at Tauranga. The necessity for getting a house for a doctor was stressed as the Board considered it would be unfair to expect a matron to take charge of the hospital with no medical practitioner nearer than Waihi.

With the building of the hospital completed accommodation for a doctor was the next problem. In early 1942 a house was built in Park Road and Doctor Joseph Burstein was appointed resident doctor for Katikati.

In May 1942  Miss Greaves from Nelson  was appointed  Matron of the hospital and the long trek for medical attention to either Waihi or Tauranga finally became a thing of the past.

Katikati Maternity Hospital (1 June 1942)
The official opening of Katikati Maternity Hospital (1 June 1942). Photo: Alice Macmillan.

In the early days Doctor Burstein ran his surgery without appointments or a nurse. I remember that you simply arrived at his surgery in Park Road and waited your turn. Everyone knew whose turn it was next and if the doctor was called away to deliver a baby or any other emergency, you just all went home and returned on the next day that his surgery was open.  

The maternity hospital also had a room available for patients after minor operations and a dentist also extracted teeth at the hospital. This caused great embarrassment, especially to some young men who were greatly ribbed at having to go to the Maternity Hospital for treatment.

For the next twenty years Doctor Burstein and the Maternity Hospital served the people very well, but with the improvement in the roads, some women were happier to have their babies at either Tauranga or Waihi and the Maternity Hospital closed through lack of patronage.

In 1964 the Old  Mens’ Home in Te Puke  was burned to the ground so the residents were moved to the Katikati Maternity Hospital and this was the beginning of a resthome service in Katikati.

The Maternity Hospital was renamed Burstein House after Dr Burstein who had given so many years of great service to the community. Very soon women also became residents at Burstein House and for the next thirty years the old Maternity Hospital served the senior citizens of Katikati extremely well, again saving the need for people to travel to Tauranga for rest home care.

In 1997 Lexham Park was built and the patients were transferred to their new home.

This now ended the life of the old hospital that had served the community so well for over fifty years.

Ellen McCormack (2012).

This page was archived at perma cc September 2017

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Katikati Maternity Hospital by Ellen McCormack