A Hospital for Children:
The founding of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg
A determined nurse with a passion for adventure was the driving force between the creation of a specialized hospital for children that would eventually become part of Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg. Annie Bond, was the driving force behind the creation of The Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, which opened in 1909.
Soon after arriving in Winnipeg in 1903, Annie Bond convinced the local branch of the National Council of Women that Winnipeg needed a facility specializing in care for the community’s children. A compelling presenter, Annie’s vision soon resulted in the formation of volunteer guilds and funds being raised. In 1909, a house that had once been the home of Lieutenant Governor Sir John Christian Schultz was rented for $40 per month.
The house, located on Beaconsfield Street in the Point Douglas area, was rundown but quickly repurposed to open as a hospital on February 6, 1909. It had a capacity of 15 patients, an additional 15 more could be cared for during summer months in the screened in veranda and an outpatient department in a former woodshed. At opening, a staff of one nurse, a maid-of-all-work, and an on-call contingent of physicians and surgeons were in place to care for one sick baby. The hospital was quickly filled to capacity and had a waiting list.
A new fundraising campaign began, led by a group of local business owners, with the goal of building a new and much larger hospital. On November 27, 1911, a new three-story Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg was opened on three and half acres of land located on Aberdeen Avenue along the banks of the Red River. Now the site of the Holy Family Nursing Home, the hospital opened with an increased capacity of 100 patients.
By 1920, admissions at the new Children’s Hospital reached 2,000 patients annually. Over time the facility expanded to provide other services, adding an outpatient wing, a diabetic clinic, and a squint clinic (which included special equipment for eye music exercise). By 1945 discussions were underway to move Children’s Hospital to the same area as the Winnipeg General Hospital (WGH), as part of work to establish a centrally located “Manitoba Medical Centre” campus.
With fundraising underway for the next location of the Children’s Hospital, Winnipeg experienced the massive flood of 1950. The riverbank setting of the existing hospital became problematic, with water filling the basement and threatening the hospital’s electrical and mechanical systems. Children were discharged or moved with staff to receive care at Deer Lodge Hospital, a facility caring for war veterans.
On December 11, 1956, the new $4-million Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg opened at the WGH campus on Bannatyne Avenue, enabling Children’s to draw upon the resources of its neighbouring institutions. In early 1970s, Children’s Hospital became a founding partner in the creation of Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg.
From its humble beginnings in a rented house to today’s substantial facility, HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital has evolved over more than 100 years, cementing its status as one of the most important health care facilities in western Canada. Today, HSC Children’s Hospital provides highly specialized and acute pediatric care to patients from every part of Manitoba, Northwestern Ontario and Nunavut in the areas of ambulatory, cardiac, emergency, dialysis, intensive, medicine, mental health, neonatal, and surgery.
Jordan’s Principle: Improving access to care for all First Nation children and their families
Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba. Jordan was born in 1999 with multiple disabilities and stayed in the hospital from birth. When he was two years old, doctors confirmed that his care could continue outside of the hospital, in a special home suited to his medical needs. However, the federal and provincial governments could not agree on who should pay for his home-based care. As a result, Jordan never got to spend even one night at home, and he passed away at the age of five in the hospital.
In 2007, the Canadian House of Commons passed Jordan’s Principle in memory of Jordan. It was a commitment that Indigenous children would get the products, services and supports they need, when they need them. In 2015, it was included in the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission as third of 94 calls to action.
In July 2022, Southern Chiefs Organization hired a Jordan’s Principle Coordinator – with support from WRHA Indigenous Health and HSC Winnipeg – to support First Nation children and their families, throughout their care at the facility. The Jordan’s Principle Coordinator assists First Nation children, youth under 18 and their families in accessing cultural wraparound supports, programs and services to improve health, education, and social outcomes.
Health Sciences Centre Winnipeg (HSC) and Shared Health acknowledge that the history of the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg and of HSC, while populated by significant advancements and innovations in health care, has also included periods and events characterized by discrimination and harm. Over time, efforts have been made to improve care for all Manitobans, learnings and recommendations have been pursued following inquiries and tragic events, and initiatives have begun to engage community and incorporate culturally appropriate and culturally safe care into available health services.
There is more work to be done to ensure that this progress continues and that health services are provided equitably, without discrimination or racism. HSC – and Shared Health – are committed to this ongoing progress.
A History of Pediatric Care in Manitoba
• In the early days, pediatricians frequently wore bow ties rather than long neckties. Bow ties can’t be pulled or chewed, and it’s easier to launder a shirt than a tie.
• In 1911, 260 children were admitted to Children’s Hospital, compared to 9,503 admissions to HSC Child Health and NICU and 40,325 visits to HSC Children’s Emergency in 2022/23.
• In 1911, one of the large wards on Aberdeen Avenue was named the Titanic Ward, furnished by the Winnipeg Real Estate Exchange in memory of three of their executives who perished in the Titanic while trying to save the lives of women and children.
• Years ago, parents were not allowed to stay overnight with their child, and even had very limited visiting hours. Children were generally not told why they were in hospital and were not psychologically prepared for procedures. Today, pediatric units are built to accommodate family members, and allow for patients to embark in play when possible.
• In the Allergy Clinic at HSC Children’s, Drs. Estelle Simons and Zhikang Peng were the first physician scientists to recognize and document a new disease they called Skeeter Syndrome. It consists of large, itchy, red swellings at the sites of mosquito bites, sometimes accompanied by low-grade fever. They were also the first to document that, although rare, mosquito bites can cause anaphylaxis, a sudden, severe and potentially fatal systemic allergic reaction.
• In 1943, founder Annie A. Bond was admitted to and passed away at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, the only adult patient ever to be admitted to Children’s.
• A total of 817 nurses graduated from the Children’s Hospital School of Nursing which opened in 1910; the last class graduated in 1969.
• In 1970, Children’s Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the world to begin treating premature infants with lung disease with airway pressure designed to distend the lung. This immediately changed the survival rate of premature infants from 20% to about 80%.
• In 1975, the Department of Services for Native Children was established to ease some of trauma of pediatric patients being in hospital far from home with language and cultural barriers; 50% of pediatric patients at the time were Indigenous.
• Established in 1981, Children’s Hospital Television (CHTV)- a closed-circuit TV station for, with and about children- was the first of its kind in Canada and only the second in North America. Every year, more than 400 patients participate in the 240+ live Good Day Shows produced by CHTV.
• In 1984, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth dedicated the “new” Children’s Hospital building on Sherbrook Street.
• In 2009, Children’s Hospital celebrated a century of service to Manitoba children and their families.
• In 2019, the new HSC Winnipeg Women’s Hospital opened, including a modernized Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)
• In 2021, HSC Winnipeg Children’s Hospital Emergency Department established a new Patient Advisory Council, inviting Indigenous parents and youth to provide feedback and cultural perspective in improving care.
• In 2022, the Travis Price Children’s Heart Centre opened at HSC with new cardiac technology and more specialized cardiac care that allows pediatric patients to access care closer to home.