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Long serving...The eight Gore Hospital staff members (front from left) Heather Hetaraka, Judy Richardson, Lorraine Borthwick (middle from left) Heather Kerr, Claire Whitten, Marilyn Windle and (back from left) Glenda Rees, Susan Clutterbuck and Cathy Borthwick who have worked more than 20 years at the hospital hold a bouquet of flowers presented to them by chief executive Karl Metzler (front) at a morning tea to celebrate the present day hospitals 20th anniversary milestone on Wed nesday. PHOTO:SANDY EGGLESTON

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Gore Hospital is a good time to “stop, reflect and celebrate a milestone,” chief executive Karl Metzler says.

Hospital staff and guests, including former Gore mayor Mary Ogg, husband David, Gore Health Board member Glenys Dickson and Hokonui Runanga kaiwhakahaere (chairman) Taare Bradshaw, celebrated the achievement with a morning tea at the hospital on Wednesday.

Mr Metzler said it was a testimony to a hard-working committee that the new hospital was built after the Southland hospital board decided in 1996 to close the town’s former facility, Seddon Memorial Hospital.

“[Today] is an opportunity to stop, pause and reflect on the enormous amount of work, that I think people forget 20 years on, that went on behind the scenes.

“Without .. Mary and David we wouldn’t be here today.

“This town has a lot to be grateful for,” Mr Metzler said.

The hospital was built against the odds.

“Twenty-three years ago they probably didn’t give us a hope in hell of being here .. so it’s a pretty special day.”

A comment made by American anthropologist Margaret Mead was very appropriate when remembering the work of the committee who oversaw the building of the new hospital, he said.

“It’s only ever a small group of people that achieve incredible outcomes.”

Survey results from the Gore District Council’s Ready for Living project showed the important role the hospital had in the community to attract people to retire in the town.

“The most critical thing, the standout thing for people wanting to stay in Gore and retire in Gore, was having the hospital.

“We should be really proud of that.”

The staff at the hospital played a critical role in its success.

“Without people, none of this stuff happens.

“You can have buildings and bricks and mortar but without the right people filling the inside of the building it’s never going to work.”

Mr and Mrs Ogg, who were both on the committee, shared their memories of the three-year journey it took to build the new hospital.

Mr Ogg said he remembered travelling back from Invercargill the day committee members were told Seddon Memorial Hospital would close and most of the health services would be provided from Invercargill.

“You could cut the air with a knife.

“We decided that we had better build a hospital ourselves,” Mr Ogg said.

Eleven floor plans for the new hospital were drawn up before a final one was chosen, he said.

It had taken much determination to proceed with the plan as there were many bureaucratic obstacles to overcome, he said.

In one public meeting, visiting health officials who came to talk about funding cuts were reduced to tears when confronted with committee members’ questions.

“It wasn’t a fun plan place to be. [It] was tough, hard stuff.”

Mrs Ogg said she had wanted the hospital to look more like a hotel than a hospital.

“I emphasised to the architects that it did not look like a white, sterile hospital, that I wanted the open beams to look like a hotel,” Mrs Ogg said.

She was very disappointed one morning to walk into the hospital to find the painters busy applying white paint to the beams.

“She just about had a blue fit,” Mr Ogg said.

Nine staff who had been at the hospital for 20 years or more were presented with a bouquet of flowers at the morning tea.

“It’s pretty rare these days that you find people who have been with an organisation for that long – I think it’s amazing,” Mr Metzler said.

Hospital operations manager Claire Whitten had worked nine years at Seddon Memorial Hospital and now 20 years at the new one.

Mrs Whitten said she really enjoyed working at the hospital.

“Health’s a really interesting environment to work in – there’s always something happening, never dull, wonderful team work.

“It’s like a big family,” Mrs Whitten said.

The hospital was an asset to the community.

“It’s great being able to offer [the patients] the service locally.”