Topic: Dr Richard Speed

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Head of Department, Obstetrics and Gynaecology

Dr Speed has delivered approximately 5000 babies throughout the 30 years he has worked at Tauranga Hospital including, at least 200 sets of twins and four sets of triplets  

“Women used to be transported from the Maternity Annexe to the main hospital by ambulance when I first started. St John’s Ambulance would be called and a driver would drive the ambulance from St     John’s on 17th Avenue to the Maternity Annexe and then take the patient across to Theatre. After a while orderlies where trained to drive the ambulance, but often we would have to push people across to Theatre on a stretcher or trolley through the waiting area of the then new Emergency Department. There was minimal privacy and it wasn’t good, so things have improved,” Richard says.

Other main changes Richard says, is the increase in Caesarean Sections and an increase in the age of women having babies. “Thirty years ago the Caesarean Section rate would’ve been about 10 per cent. It’s now somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent - a phenomenal increase. Also, many women start having a family after 30 and into their 40’s - it’s not uncommon,” says Richard.  

Working in this field brings a lot of joy, Richard says, and is not without its stresses or its rewards. “There was an occasion when I was off-duty and just happened to be walking past the Delivery Suite when I was called in. Someone was in distress after having a baby as another one was on its way. Twins were undiagnosed until the birth of the first baby, and the second baby was in a perilous state. I went in and managed to deliver the baby. I can’t mention names, but that baby went on to become a local champion New Zealand Sports Person!”.  

 Dr Richard Speed

 “In 1983 the ethnicity of women giving birth at the hospital would have been 65 per cent European and 25-30 per cent Māori. Now at least 20-30 per cent are Indian, Bangladeshi, Asian or Pacifica families and women often require translation services.” 


Trish Simpson, Tauranga resident recalls

I was born at home in 1943 which I believe was just prior to the opening of the Maternity Annexe in 1944. In 1968 and again in 1971 two of my three children were born at the Maternity Annexe. On the first occasion Sister McKean was the Matron in charge and she ran a tight ship. I’m sure many people will remember her and her means of transport – an old lightweight motorcycle.

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Dr Richard Speed

First Names:Richard
Last Name:Speed