Many thanks to Lori for the scan

New Zealand Herald

28 April 2003

People-power fuels Starship enterprise

Lucy Lawless says plans to change the Starship's name are 'nonsense'.

By MARTIN JOHNSTON and REBECCA WALSH, health reporters Defenders of the name Starship are to lobby the Minister of Health this week in an effort to keep the name.

Days after the Herald revealed the name would be changed from Starship to Auckland City Hospital Children's Services, high-level lobbyists say they are ready to fly to Wellington to try to convince the Government to step in.

Parents of patients, doctors, the official who approved the name Starship, the National Party, Herald letter writers and talkback callers have all criticised the Auckland District Health Board decision to change the name.

The outrage is a reversal of the derision that greeted the name when it was bestowed in 1992.

Lucy Lawless, a trustee on the fundraising Starship Foundation and the highest-profile star associated with the hospital, has called the change "nonsense" and hopes it can be reversed.

"The place will always be in people's hearts the Starship ... that's what it looks like. So why strip it of official recognition?"

She and other trustees will discuss the implications at a regular meeting at the hospital this morning.

She believed it would be harder to raise money for something "that sounds like something from the socialist era".

"I hope there's a way for a gracious reversal on this."

Health board chairman Wayne Brown said the loss of the name was the inevitable consequence of the decision to merge Starship, Green Lane, National Women's and Auckland Hospitals on one site.

But yesterday it emerged that the new name, adopted unanimously by the health board, was partly intended to signal a change in focus, from high-tech hospitals to community-based healthcare.

Mr Brown said brands such as Starship were for commercial products, not state-financed hospitals.

Yesterday he dismissed a rethink. "You must be joking," he said.

People were free to keep calling the hospital Starship as an informal name if they liked.

But the decision has run up against Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey, the marketing man who thought of the name, and Bryan Mogridge, chairman of the Starship Foundation fundraising group, who are gearing up to lobby Health Minister Annette King to have the change overturned.

Said Mr Harvey: "He [Mr Brown] is turning down one of the greatest fundraising operations that Auckland has ever seen.

"The foundation will be just demolished; worse, it will be dismantled.

"The funding group has got to be related to the hospital."

The foundation generates more than $3.5 million a year for the hospital, buying equipment the Government will not buy.

Foundation lawyers are studying whether the name change is a breach of contract with sponsors, who give money to benefit from the hospital's good name.

Mr Mogridge said many people had called him at the weekend saying they would try to help save the name.

"This is an asset owned by the families of New Zealand. It's not just an asset that the health board owns.

"It may think it does, but when you've asked people to donate money to a cause and had any involvement, there's a strong community ownership of the asset, so you are going to get a large public outcry if you change it."

Mrs King has said the board is entitled to make such a decision.

But her spokesman said she would ask the board about the name-change and hoped it had consulted all interested groups.

Health board member John Retimana said the change was linked to the board's view that more money should be spent on primary healthcare and that the foundation was focused too narrowly on the children's hospital.

"The campaign for children's wellness should be broadened."

Mr Brown said he supported the foundation, but it needed to start raising money for children's health, rather than the hospital.

Paediatricians nationwide are concerned that the name change will convert Starship from being New Zealand's only national children's hospital to being an Auckland facility.

They also worry that it will make it even harder to get a fair slice of national funding for Starship, which is forecasting an $8.7 million deficit this year.

"I think the whole Paediatric Society is concerned that this is part of a downgrading of services for children," said the society's former president, Barry Taylor, professor of paediatrics and child health at the Dunedin School of Medicine.

Gary Taylor, who approved the name Starship as chairman and deputy commissioner of the former Auckland Area Health Board, said yesterday that the name had proved itself over time.

"Starship" could be a subtitle, if all the hospitals were to be branded Auckland City Hospital, he said.

Return to Lucy Print Archive