Recollections of Helen Henderson, Charge Nurse, Ward 3, Kenepuru Hospital, 1982-1995


Ward 3, the 25 bed Children’s Ward of Kenepuru Hospital opened on March 15th, 1982.

The very first admission was a child with glandular fever.

It was a long-awaited asset for families, GP’s and Health Professionals of the Porirua community and Kapiti Coast Region, some 25years, I believe! As I understood it, at the time, a purpose-built Children Ward was to be built in the new future block of facilities that were planned for, on the Kenepuru site but never came to fruition!

The Children’s Ward provided an acute twenty-four-hour, seven days a week medical service, at times requiring specialist support from Wellington. There were also some routine surgical and orthopedic procedures done.

While brand new, the ward was not specifically designed for children, being a standard adult facility, so some modifications were needed, but it was NEW, and we had a very enthusiastic team, keen to make a difference to the care of children in the local area. I believe we achieved this. There was a strong focus on Family Centered Care, involving a medical team, led by Dr. Farrell and a nursing team supported by myself, as we strived to offer a very individualized approach to care from both doctors and nurses, offering ‘rooming in’ for parents and a full-time teaching service for school age children. It provided care from newborns to teenagers up to 17years old.

We were initially supported by part time Pediatricians form Wellington. Tosh Stanley, Margaret Lewis, and Richard Bush from Puketiro. But later we had the team of three being Alan Farrell, Joan Corrie, and John McArthur.

In the eighties the ward was very often full to bursting with ‘small, sick, wheezy, brown faced children with iron deficiency anemia’ and struggling with the challenges of social and economic deprivation. I heard the Ward described by a Nursing Supervisor as a ‘Bread and Butter, kiddies Ward’; meaning, I believe, that we supported and cared for children with common acute medical complaints. I would say we too, had our fair share of odd, weird, and peculiar anomalies and events. Such is the diversity of pediatric health.

During the winter months the ward was very frenetic, noisy, and full to bursting and managing a medical/nursing team, patients and family members was challenging. I recall being asked, by management one day to do a head count, for fire and safety precautions, at 11am we had 93 people in the ward!

Like other Children’s wards around the region, we too faced staffing shortages, many nurses had some trepidation working in a children’s ward; there were equipment issues, trying to find machines to monitor IV fluids, extra beds, and cots, and who cannot recall the tedious nature of repairing those oxygen tents! We sure had the screws put on us related to costs, expenditure, and availability of specialist items. Many items were hard to access and we did seem to hemorrhage all sorts of items and goods from the ward. I remember after one busy weekend, being approached by the Laundry Manager, who was most indignant, that between 4.30pm on Friday until 8am on Monday, One Thousand Nappies had gone ‘missing’! They were cloth napkins in those days too! 

I was proud of the work performed by the Team of Ward 3, in what were often some stressful times. We had some excellent Doctors, Nurses and Therapists. There were also many lighthearted times as we worked hard to keep the team’s spirit alive and well. In the Nineties we saw much political change related to hospitals, how they were managed, and how we measured the delivery of health care. This bought about changes to social policy too.

Looking back and listening to nurses and doctors today, I must wonder how much things have improved, or ask the question, ‘Have They’?  In 2020 we are still talking about rheumatic fever, poor housing conditions, economic poverty, child abuse and social inequities.

I was Charge Nurse until October I995, when I left to fill another gap in the Health Care system.

Later in the decade the Ward became a day ward, Monday to Friday and currently remains so. 



Last updated 9 February 2021.