Historical notes on Psychiatric Services at Wellington Hospital :-: 1914 - 1980

In 1914 it was proposed to convert a planned maternity ward into a ward for patients with delerium tremens. This plan did not proceed. In 1916 the Hospital Board had resolved not to admit attempted suicide or DT patients to the hospital. However, attention was drawn to the requirement under Sec.23 of the Act for the Board to so admit. The Board resolved that if the government provides funds for a proposed ward, it would admit patients, though "it was doubtful whether DT patients were mental health problems".

In 1916 the Medical Superintendent recommended improvements to the padded cell in Ward 4, rather than "spending extra money on adapting the tin shed".

In 1926 Sir Truby King (as acting director of mental defectives) approached the Medical Superintendent of Wellington Hospital requesting that an out-patient service for mental patients be established at the hospital. It is unclear exactly when such a service was established or who ran it prior to Dr Hart's appointment.

In 1932, as part of a major review of medical and surgical services, it was proposed that there be a Department of Neuropsychiatry within a Division of Medicine. This recommendation did not proceed.

In 1936 Dr B D Hart was appointed visiting psychiatrist to the hospital. (He was Medical Superintendent of Porirua Hospital 1935 - 1963.) He established two small psychiatric wards in Wellington Hospital - 1 male and 1 female - and they were staffed by medical officers from Porirua Hospital.

In 1952 Dr Durand, the Medical Superintendent, reported to the Board on the state of the two psychiatric wards, wards 1A and 3B. "No words from me are needed to convince the Board that these wards are seriously deficient. There are no facilities for isolation of a noisy patient and the situation of the wards is bad. I have submitted proposals for the accommodation of psychiatric cases or those requiring observation above the new Casualty wards. This was merely a suggestion which I believe would provide a satisfactory solution. I would not pretend that it is the only solution and if an alternative satisfactory solution can be found I should readily accept it. The fact remains that this provision is urgent."

In 1954 Dr Durand reported to the Board "It has been ruled by the Health Department that it is not in the province of a Hospital Board to treat psychiatric patients save as a temporary measure, and therefore that psychiatric wards should only be for observation and diagnosis. With this view I disagree ... It is therefore accepted that the psychiatric wards to be provided by the Board will be merely clearing houses for observation and diagnosis. To them will be admitted the insane, the stressed, the drugged, whether the drug be alcohol or something else. It follows that they must be designed to provide some insulated isolation facilities.

The present position is as follows:

Ward 1A: Built about 1883. Seven beds in one ward; no isolation facilities. Originally ward 1A and the present Matron-in-Chief's quarters were a children's ward of 22 beds. It is quite unsuited to its present use, having inadequate annexes and no means of isolating or insulating the noisy or manic patient. It has no outlook and is dismal and depressing.

Ward 3B: Built circa 1881 as a Maids' Common Room. Seven beds and no isolation facilities. It is subject to the same criticism as Ward 1A.

The Board has put forward proposals for the immediate temporary improvement of conditions for psychiatric patients by a) improving Ward 3B and b) making the former Nurses' Sick Bay suitable for female patients."

In 1961 there was a significant increase in the psychiatric services provided. Old ward 14 was converted into a psychiatric OP clinic. It had a separate entrance between the two childrens' wards at the top of the main drive. Dr T Edwin Hall undertook ward rounds in the mornings and ran OP clinics in afternoons on four days each week, and Dr Millen G Mackay provided services on the other day. In 1962 Dr J Hardwick-Smith was appointed visiting psychiatrist. With the departure of Edwin Hall to the Medical Superintendent post at Sunnyside Hospital on 3/2/1964, Dr D M Fraser McDonald was appointed visiting psychiatrist.

Dr D G McLachlan was appointed the first full-time psychiatrist in 1967, and the Department of Psychiatry was officially opened on 1/4/1967. Dr Ian MacDougall was appointed visiting psychiatrist the following year.

Mr Caleb Tucker, Medical Superintendent-in-Chief, reported to the House Committee of the Board in 1968, on service provision:

"Psychiatry: Two physicians on a basis of 1/10 each, and one full-time physician. In addition, Dr M G Mackay, Medical Superintendent of Porirua Hospital, or his deputy, gives 2/10 each week, and Dr John Hall of the Head Office, Mental Health Division, gives 1/10. Dr McLachlan has indicated that without this additional help from the officers of the mental Health Division, he could not carry out the services as at present provided."

In 1969 Dr John Hall was appointed visiting psychiatrist, and the following year, Dr Dorothea Wraith became the first Visiting Child Psychiatrist. In 1972 Porirua Hospital became the responsibility of Wellington Hospital Board.

In 1973 the new Psychiatric Unit was completed and Dr Peter Fama appointed the second full-time psychiatrist.

Dr Tony Marks was appointed Tutor and Specialist in Psychological Medicine in 1974. There followed the appointments of Dr Evelyn Lind, visiting psychiatrist in 1975, Dr Gerald Bridge and Dr Grahame Pohlen, full-time psychiatrists in 1974, Dr Anne Hall, full-time psychiatrist in 1976, and Dr Enid Slim, full-time psychiatrist in 1979.

DrJohn Roberts was appointed foundation Professor of Psychological Medicine, Wellington Clinical School of Medicine in 1975.


Last updated 25 May 2022.