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Health Sciences Centre, Women's Hospital Winnipeg/Manitoba, Canada

July 2021
EDAC Advocate Firm Project
HSC, Women's Hospital, Exterior View, Tom Arban Photography, 2019

Parkin Architects Limited



To provide a patient-centered environment that is environmentally appropriate for the care of fragile newborns and women in a challenging northern climate.


The new Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Women’s Hospital is one of very few freestanding women’s hospitals in Canada and was designed to consolidate multiple programs into a new, purpose-built hospital connected by bridge and tunnel to HSC Winnipeg. The programs were scattered across multiple sites and consolidation meant patients would no longer need to be transferred between buildings, and operational processes could be streamlined and duplication of processes eliminated. The existing buildings were seventy years old and were environmentally inappropriate for the care of fragile newborns and women.


Births occurred in the Maternity Pavilion; if the baby was admitted to the NICU, it was a kilometer away in the Children’s Hospital. The Special Care Nursery and postpartum beds were located in the Maternity Pavilion so babies  and mothers regularly moved back and forth. This impacted admitting and care processes as babies were kept longer in a nursery rather than subjecting them to transfer through the tunnel system with its noise, heat and bright lights. Because the program was fragmented by location, processes were often duplicated making it difficult to develop synergies between programs to improve patient care. Work arounds had developed that reacted to space pressures and were not patient-centered. The birthing rooms and C-section rooms were too small to accommodate a bassinet; so babies were routinely taken from their parents to other areas of the hospital for routine newborn care, causing parents to miss those first important opportunities for bonding.


The designers tracked care processes, and met with community and hospital providers to ensure that staff voices were engaged and empowered to influence design decisions. They attended procedures, tracked patient and staff movements and reviewed patient intake processes to verify the programming principles. A series of goals for the project were developed:

  1. Maximize connection to natural light recognizing climatic conditions,

  2. Reduce unnecessary movement of patients,

  3. Improve control of light and noise in the infant care environment, and

  4. Consolidate outpatient activities to improve staff efficiency and patient experience.

The design team and clinical care teams completed searches for research for each of the goals. Preliminary studies on circadian lighting systems and noise were conducted. The project team worked closely with user groups including the care teams as well as the community to determine the design priorities and followed them throughout the design stages and during construction.

A study was conducted to determine the interior theme relative to the northern climate and the indigenous population who use the hospital.
Community discussions resulted in two alternative themes being developed, one responding to ‘wrapping’ given through the care cycle and the other based on wildflowers native to Manitoba and resonating with the lifecycle. A survey of the themes was made available to the community and garnered an overwhelming response for the wildflower theme which was ultimately selected. This opportunity for the community to engage in the design process exemplifies the project’s patient-centered care focus.


The building now serves as a one-stop shop for women’s health and wellness needs. The new facility was the first in the province to offer all single rooms for patients. The design of the clinical spaces allows for staff and service flexing through staff corridors. Workflow optimization, along with the co-location of work areas and support spaces, reduces the overall walking distances for care providers and walking distances between departments.

The clinic modules are standardized and connected allowing for flexibility and future growth. The patient and staff experience was improved by providing access to natural light and views to nature through the roof garden seating areas, the central atrium stair, light-filled staff corridors, and onsite amenities including a café, staff lounges, and conference/education spaces for each department. Connectivity, flexibility, and sense of place make this building the catalyst for a wellness network.

Family Lounge-Birthing Unit, Postpartum Patient Room, Inpatient Unit Care Station & NICU Family Lounge and Sibling Play Areas, Tom Arban Photography, 2019