The atmosphere of delight and joy felt at the opening ceremony of Kidz First on 6 December 2000 is not what you would expect at a hospital, but after 22 years, that feeling lives on today.
Nettie Knetsch, then General Manager of Kidz First, says the building and services were much needed.
“The old children’s wards were way down the hospital in older buildings near the Poutasi Link, far away from Emergency Department, which made it unsuitable.
“The wards only had 15 inpatient beds for medical patients, 20 inpatient beds for surgical care, and eight acute assessment beds.”
Kidz First was designed as a solution to these problems and provide dedicated care to the children of South Auckland.
Nettie says she feels fortunate to have been involved in the planning for Kidz First and feels very attached to the building and its history.
“I travelled with the Clinical Director overseas to look at designs of children’s hospitals worldwide to find out what worked and what didn’t.
“The design we chose was based on being child-focused and having parents/whaanau as partners in care and creating flexible capacity to accommodate winter surges. To this date, the design continues to work really well.”
A planned healing garden was opened in March 2001 to provide a sanctuary to whaanau.
“Kidz First remains a place where a child and whaanau-centred care are paramount,” says Nettie.
Opening the doors to the Counties community
Kidz First was opened by then Primer Minister Helen Clarke in the presence of Hon. Dr Terepai Maoate, Prime Minister of Cook Islands, alongside Board Chair Ross Keenan and Chief Executive Mr David Clark.
Pam Tregonning, a previous CEO of the South Auckland Health Foundation (now the Middlemore Foundation), attended Kidz First's opening and said it was a special event.
“Before Kidz First even opened, it has been supported by the local community, some of which still support Kidz First to this day.”
A beautiful carving gifted to Kidz First by the late Maaori Queen’s carvers depicting a parent embracing their child was unveiled at the opening of the building, which remains in place today.
Today Kidz First offers 66 beds with an additional 12 Emergency Department assessment beds, 15 short stay beds, and two dedicated paediatric resuscitation rooms.