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From Green Lane Hospital to Starship Child Health

Green Lane Hospital evolved from an aged-care institution established in 1890 alongside Green Lane Road, Epsom, Auckland with money from an endowment by the wealthy Mr Costley. Tuberculosis (TB) 'shelters' were built in 1910. By 1916 nearly 150 TB patients were housed in the 'TB shelters'. The Auckland Hospital Board intended to add more wards... to increase the facilities for aged care. The advent of World War II changed priorities and a decision was made to commission medical and surgical beds for a new general hospital on the Green Lane site, which was opened in February 1943. The name changed to Green Lane Hospital in 1942.

The establishment of cardiac surgery at Green Lane has its origins in the development of thoracic surgery for the specialised treatment of tuberculosis and the need to collapse lungs with artificial pheumothorax or thoracoplasty to allow pulmonary TB to heal. Douglas Robb (later Sir Douglas) was recruited in 1942 as a thoracic surgeon and Dr Edward Roche joined in 1943 as part of the team needed for a general medical and surgical hospital. Edward Roche's specialist interest was in cardiac medicine and his arrival laid the foundations for a cardiac medical unit. At this time cardiac surgery for congenital defects such as patent ductus arteriosus (a condition in which a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus fails to close normally in an infant after birth), and for a coarctation of the aorta (A localised narrowing of the aorta) was developing in other parts of the world.

Soon after Douglas Robb's appointment, a decision was made for the Green Lane Thoracic Unit to also concentrate on the cardiac surgery needs of the country. A Department of Health Advisory Committee on thoracic surgery decided in 1955 that Green Lane would be recognised as the national cardiac surgical centre for New Zealand. Surgeons were poised for the era of open-heart surgery, which commenced at Green Lane in 1958.

The demand for cardiac surgery grew rapidly over the following decades. The need for increased space soon became urgent. Planning for health services in Auckland continued as the population grew. Green Lane was designated a specialist centre for cardiac surgery, cardiology, respiratory medicine and otorhinolaryngology. (By 1997) it had become increasingly clear that paediatric and adult cardiac services needed to separate to maintain and ensure the quality of patient care for both adults and children. Cardiac services for children belonged with Starship Children's Hospital, which had opened on the Auckland Hospital site in 1991. Auckland District Health Board planning was underway for the complete reorganisation of health services for Auckland City and in December 2003, the Cardio-thoracic Surgical Unit (CTSU adult and paediatric services) moved to Auckland City Hospital.

(abridged from the preface of 'Hearts, Hands Minds: the Cardio-thoracic Nurses of Green Lane Hospital'. Authors: Margaret Horsburgh, Heather Spinetto, Judy Murphy, Jill Crawford, Rachel Donaldson and Sylvia Hilton. 2010, Dunmore Publishing Ltd, Wellington)

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