Formation of the NZSSA
Sterile Services departments evolved from ward dressing stations where nurses rolled bandages and cotton wool swabs in their spare time.
In the 1950s and 60s this activity moved out of the wards and into a centralised dressing area. Hardware, in the form of Instruments and bowls, remained in the wards where they were “sterilised” using boiling water. Steam Sterilisers, or Autoclaves, were located in Operating Theatres and reserved for surgical instruments, bowl sets and linen packs. At this time syringes were made of glass and reprocessed on a daily basis, plastics had yet to make an appearance, and “disposable” was an unknown concept.
One of the first traditional C.S.S.D.s in New Zealand was set up at Auckland Hospital in 1964. At about the same time a far sighted Surgeon in Greymouth, on the South Islands West Coast, established a fully centralised department. This unit processed Theatre instruments, bowl sets and linen packs as well as ward supplies. By the 1970s purpose built Sterile Supply departments were appearing and the bringing together of sterilisation in one place was an established concept. Ward “boilers” were being phased out.
Following approaches to the Director General of Health, in 1973, three C.S.S.D. managers, two in Auckland and one, at the other end of the country, in Invercargill came together to discuss the formation of an association of sterile supply staff. Out of that came the inaugural meeting in Auckland in August 1974 at which the Association was formed.
The objectives of the New Zealand Association of Sterile Supply Personnel, as it was called, were the same then as those now stated in Section 3 of the Constitution and Rules.
At that time the NZASSP also had an Industrial Relations role and represented members at national negotiations seeking improved pay and conditions. Sterile Services workers were employed under a range of Agreements and the only thing they had in common was uniformly low rates of pay. As the situation improved and a Determination for Sterile Services, DG 28, was established the Association dropped its IR role and concentrated on staff training and development. This remains the primary focus of the NZSSA.