Drive for children-only ED

Hospital foundation fundraising to create better space for sick youngsters

Judith Lacy For more information visit or email





‘Could you just stay still while I jab you?” To an adult, the request is likely to bring challenges, but imagine asking a sick, scared toddler to do that. Palmerston North paediatrician Dr Jeff Brown outlined at the launch last week of the Palmerston North Hospital Foundation the challenges staff face when treating children at the city’s all-ages emergency department. A separate children’s ED is the first fundraising project of the charitable trust. The plan is to turn part of the current ED into a dedicated children’s ED, using space that will be freed up when construction of the emergency department observation area is completed by Christmas. Sick or injured children are likely to be in the ED waiting room at the same time as an adult under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Brown says. There can be screaming, swearing, and holes punched in walls. “This can be a noisy, busy and sometimes frightening experience for children.” Children are not little adults — but people who design health systems, transport systems and cities often think they are. Imagine trying to get a 3-year-old to do what you want them to do when they don’t want to, Brown says. That’s when they are well. Now imagine if they are not well. It is estimated a three- to five-bed children’s ED will cost about $250,000. It would have equipment, furniture, decor, distraction and play equipment to cater for the range of developmental stages, disabilities, illnesses and injuries of children, plus a dedicated treatment area. Waikato, Wellington and Christchurch hospitals already have a children’s ED. Palmerston North is big enough to matter and small enough to care, Brown says, and the foundation shows ED staff the community cares about them and wants to provide more than Vote Health provides. “As signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child international treaty, all children in Aotearoa have the right to receive healthcare in an environment suitable for their physical and emotional needs. This dedicated space is an important part of how we can do that.” Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith got involved in the conversation several years ago. The past few years have reminded us how fortunate we are to have good health and how important health care services are, he said. He and the other foundation trustees visited ED at 1pm on a Tuesday. It wasn’t good with everyone in the same melting pot. “I had to see it to believe it.” The children’s ED could be built by Christmas if the community really wanted it, Smith said. He announced he had kickstarted the fundraising by giving $2000 from the mayoral fund. Former MidCentral District Health Board chairman and Horowhenua mayor Brendan Duffy chairs the foundation. He said for far too long — nearly a decade — there had been discussion about establishing a foundation. It would complement the new healthcare system. “Gifts to the foundation will fund resources designed for our community’s specific needs, making an impact for generations to come.” The foundation’s projects will work towards supporting additional health services, amenities, research and training facilities at the hospital. The other trustees are judicial justice and Rangitāne kaumātua Trieste Te Awe Awe and company director and registered nurse Vicki Stewart. Ways to support the foundation include one-off donations, memorial gifts, bequests and business support.