Nursing in New Zealand: History and Reminiscences
Chapter XIV. — Private Nursing and Private Hospitals
Private Nursing and Private Hospitals.
Some 35 to 40 years ago the only outlook of a trained nurse after leaving hospital was private nursing. In New Zealand, owing to the fact that training schools for nurses were not commenced till 1883, it was long before there was a sufficient supply of qualified nurses to deal with the demand and people were perforce obliged to rely on the services of untrained women who thus obtained some little experience in sick nursing. It was surprising, that when the Nurses' Registration Act came into force, few of these women recognised that they, in view of their past experience, were eligible for registration during a concession period. Later on some of them realised what they had missed and each session for some years, a Bill was brought before Parliament for the registration of unregistered women. This was always referred to me for comment and I gave the reasons against it with the result that it was never passed, and gradually the effort was given up.
Unfortunately in New Zealand, as well as in other countries, the competition of unqualified women has always been a problem for the private nurse, and now that hospitals are so much more used by the general public, those able to pay fees as well as the sick poor, there is very little inducement for a nurse to enter this field.page 82
For many years nurses of enterprise were able to start private hospitals, and did well with them, but now hospital equipment is so specialised and expensive that only a few of the larger private hospitals can maintain their existence. One of the earliest ones to be equipped on the standard then required, was started by Miss May Palmer in Wellington, another well-known hospital was Miss Tombes in Dunedin, Miss Thompson's, also in Dunedin, Miss Turner's, in Christchurch, and there were several in Auckland and in many of the country towns. Under legislation, these hospitals had to be owned by registered nurses or to have a registered nurse in charge of the nursing. A few doctors started nursing homes with registered nurses in charge. One of my duties was the periodical inspection of the established ones and the licensing of new ones, which had to comply with the requirements of the regulations. As time went on, my assistant nurse inspector carried out this work, and later more inspectors were appointed.
A great handicap to the nursing profession was the establishment of private hospitals run by Church organisations, mostly by the Roman Catholic Church. These were supported by private and public subscriptions and therefore had an unfair advantage over those owned by nurses who were dependent only on their own earnings. So gradually nurses are being forced out of this field of work. The requirements of hospitals of the present day are more than can be supplied by private enterprise unbacked by public support.
It is fortunate that other avenues have opened up for nurses in public health work in its various preventive aspects.