Hospital survives and thrives 100 years on

21:03, Dec 10 2012
Bidwill Hospital
UP TO DATE: Bidwill Hospital now has three modern operating theatres.
Bidwill Hospital
EARLY YEARS: Bidwill Hospital's 1930s' X-ray department was a fairly simple affair compared to today's modern technology.
Bidwill Hospital
LONG HISTORY: Bidwill Hospital as it stood for 65 years until it was replaced in 2001.
Bidwill Hospital
LASTING INSTITUTION: One hundred years on after being opened by Sister McArthur, Bidwill Trust Hospital continues.

A year of centennial celebrations is coming to an end for one of Timaru's most respected institutions - Bidwill Trust Hospital. Hospital manager Val Flynn reflects on the hospital's background and trials it has endured over its 100 years.

Bidwill Trust Hospital is a well-known and respected name in South Canterbury and its history dates back to July 13, 1912 when Sister M McArthur opened the original hospital.

The two-storeyed brick building, designed and built by Lust and Moriarty, had several patient rooms and one operating theatre.

bidwill hospital
UP TO DATE: Bidwill Hospital now has three modern operating theatre.

In the early 1930s, a group of business people formed the Timaru Private Hospital Company in an attempt to expand services.

A medical syndicate was established by Dr Talbot, the company's first chairman and director with the majority of local practitioners contributing.

A new hospital was built incorporating 26 beds, an X-ray facility and an operating theatre. This was officially opened on October 30, 1936.


Financial difficulties in the late 1970s caused by increased wage costs and falling bed stays resulted in the hospital facing the risk of closure.

In order to retain services, a charitable trust was formed in 1977. The trust's first chairman was Dr Charles Halstead.

Under the terms of the Charitable Trusts Act the new Bidwill Trust would have no shareholders and it would pay no dividend. This holds true today as the hospital continues to operate as a charitable trust.

Eddie Thompson was the promoter of a successful public appeal for funds around the time of the trust's establishment in the late 1970s with the money donated allowing for considerable upgrade of the facility.

The Halstead wing was developed and opened in 1983 adding a further six beds. It was followed by a further major development in 1985.

In 1997 architectural plans were received - one for the redevelopment of the existing first floor of the Bidwill Street hospital and the other for a new single-storey complex on hospital owned land adjacent to it.

Simultaneously as the board considered the hospital development proposals, the trustees gave serious thought to providing a surgery only facility and by November 1999 they had relinquished their licence for the care of the elderly.

The new hospital

On March 30, 2001 the new hospital opened. The complex comprised 14 patient rooms, a four-bed day ward and two operating theatres.

Patient numbers continued to grow through the mid-2000s. Shortage of patient accommodation became a concern to the board so a decision was taken to extend the hospital to provide a dedicated day surgery unit and third operating theatre. Christchurch architects Trengrove and Blunt were engaged to draw plans for the extension and on December 23, 2009 a contract was let to Henderson Building Ltd.

Work commenced on the hospital redevelopment on January 18, 2010 and after 20 months the new extensions were opened on September 2, 2011 by Mr Gavin Wilton. Over 200 guests attended the opening celebration.

The extensions increased the floor area by a further 70 per cent and included a 14-bed inpatient ward, a 14-bed day surgery unit and three operating theatres.

Sixty staff are employed by the hospital, plus 14 surgeons and nine anaesthetists who work on contract to provide surgery for around 1900 patients per year.

Centennial celebrations

This year is the hospital's centennial and several events have been organised to celebrate this remarkable achievement.

The first event was a Skin Check Clinic held in March where surgeons and staff donated their time to offer skin checks for the public while raising money for the Cancer Society.

In May a revised and updated version of The Bidwill Story written by Doug Drake was reprinted to record the hospital's history up to the present day. The book was launched at the hospital and Mr Drake signed copies for invited guests and staff.

In June the hospital donated $45,000 to the MRI Scanner Appeal as a centennial year gift to the South Canterbury community.

On December 1 a centennial dinner was attended by more than 150 guests to celebrate the history of the hospital.

The Timaru Herald