The Hospital in 1958

The front block, as seen in this 1958 photograph, was by now the building that identified the hospital in the minds of the public. 

photograph courtesy Photographic Department, Wellington Hospital / Wellington School of Medicine 

An aerial photograph taken in 1957 shows well the layout of hospital buildings. Note the addition of another Nurses’ Home in the foreground (opened in 1949).

photograph courtesy Evening Post 

In 1959, work was commenced on an extension to the north of the front Administration Block, to house Medical Records on the ground floor, Fracture Clinic on the 1st floor, and administrative services (including the Pay-Office) on the top floor.

photograph courtesy Photographic Department, Wellington Hospital / Wellington School of Medicine 

As far back as 1944, Dr Cairney, the Superintendent-in-Chief, proposed the erection of a new Outpatient building, to the north of the Front Block. He envisaged that this would house outpatient services currently managed within the Front Block, and proposed that the existing outpatient area be remodeled into a Medical Records Department. He also recommended that the new building provide for fracture cases, and have its own plaster room and X-ray facility.

The orthopaedic staff thought that it would be preferable to site a Fracture Clinic in the area currently occupied by Physiotherapy, and they suggested moving Physiotherapy into the second floor of the new building. Sketch plans were produced.

By 1948, the plans were revised to have the Fracture Clinic in the new building, as originally proposed by Dr Cairney. A firm recommendation was made to the Board to proceed.

In 1951, Dr Richard Durand, the new Superintendent-in-Chief, proposed that rather than proceeding with the new Outpatient building, a new Casualty Building be erected instead. He suggested converting the present Casualty Department into an Orthopaedic Department and also a Medical Records area. This idea was rejected by the Health Department. The next proposal was to convert the ground floor of the 210-Block into Casualty, Orthopaedic & Psychiatric Departments. However, this would have required relocating the Nurses' Preliminary Training School, the Urology Department and the Chest Clinic.

In the end, the building originally planned was erected, accommodating a Fracture Clinic, Medical Records Department and, on the upper storey, Administrative Offices.

photograph courtesy Photographic Department, Wellington Hospital / Wellington School of Medicine 

In this 1962 aerial photograph the completed front block extension can be seen at the far right, to the west of the 210-block. In the foreground there are now two extra nurses’ homes, ‘No 2’ (opened 26/3/1949) and nearer Riddiford St, ‘No 3’ (opened 6/11/1958)

Too few operating theatres

In a report to the Board dated 4/8/1954, Dr Richard Durand, Superintendent-in-Chief wrote "Plans were produced for the construction of a magnificent hospital on the site now occupied by the 210 Block. ... The result is adequate general surgical beds and inadequate operating facilities which hampers the full utilisation of the beds and in the end prejudices patients and the services which the Board seeks to give.

... Two additional theatre units are required immediately in Wellington, each having two theatres. The units should be contiguous to surgical wards. One suite should serve the orthopaedic wards."

Despite a clear case made by Dr Durand, the proposals were not approved, so by mid 1956, the situation was becoming critical. On 26/7/56, the Board's architects submitted to the City Engineer plans & specifications for a new, "temporary" operating theatre of timber construction, seeking exemption the regulations which demanded any construction of this type to be in brick or concrete.

A building permit was issued, and the result was a building nestled in between the 210-Block and the Maternity Annexe, with access off the corridor to the 210-Block. The first operations performed in the new theatre were in 1958. Cardiothoracic surgery had commenced in 1952 after the appointment of Mr James Baird to the staff. However, development of this subspecialty was difficult until Theatre 3 opened. Cardiothoracic operations were undertaken in Theatre 3 until 1966.

The main corridor - revisited

A very busy part of the hospital was the original main corridor.

photograph courtesy Photographic Department, Wellington Hospital / Wellington School of Medicine

A new 'Chest Hospital'

For some time pulmonary tuberculosis patients had been cared for either at Ewart Hospital, or at the Otaki Sanitorium. It was clear during the 1940s that these two facilities were inadequate to cope with the still increasing number of patients presenting. So, the Board approved in principle, the building of a dedicated Chest Hospital. Initially, it was envisaged that Paekakariki would be an appropriate site for such a Hospital, and in 1945, land was purchased there. The planned development became known as the Glencastle project.

There was, however, considerable staff opposition to the plans, because they did not approve of the isolation that would be associated with working at Paekakariki. Plans were then changed to allow for a new building at Newtown. The proposal to build a 120-bed Chest Hospital in Wellington was, however, turned down by the Minister of Health in February 1949.

By December 1950, the Board had approved a revised plan for a 150-bed Chest Hospital, to be sited where the Seddon Wards were currently placed. By 1954, these plans were well-advanced, and included operating theatres and an Xray Department. At around this time it was becoming apparent that tuberculosis case numbers were declining somewhat, in part due to more effective treatments being available and hospital stays shortened. In further refining the Chest Hospital plans, it was thought sensible to provide for possible alternative uses of the facility.

The Health Department argued that if a multifunctional Hospital building was to go ahead, it should be planned as part of the overall re-development of Wellington Hospital. So, further delays occurred. The new building became known as 'Block A' in the overall re-development plans, though when finished it was to be known as the 'Seddon Wing'. Construction commenced in March 1963.  

The new Seddon Wing was situated to the east of the main hospital, on a site previously occupied by the original Seddon Ward and shelters.

photograph courtesy Evening Post 

The new Seddon Wing completed

photograph courtesy Photographic Department, Wellington Hospital / Wellington School of Medicine 

By the time the new Seddon Wing was opened in 1966 however, tuberculosis rates had significantly declined. Thus, the Seddon Wing was used to house medical wards, including the hospital's first Coronary Care Unit, and an expanded Renal Dialysis Unit. Cardiac and Renal patients shared Ward 22.

Ward 24 housed Cardiothoracic surgical patients, with two new & dedicated operating theatres attached to the ward. The X-ray facility was used to good effect as a Cardiac Catheterisation Laboratory and also serviced all of the Seddon wards including postoperative cardiothoracic surgical & CCU patients.

Opening of the Medical Wards (Wards 21, 23, 25 and 26) allowed medical patients to be moved out of the original Wards 1, 3 and 5, and pressure was eased on Wards 8, 9 and 10.

The hospital after completion of the Seddon Wing is seen in this aerial photograph taken in 1965.

photograph courtesy Gillian George 



Last updated 29 April 2022.