The Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) has undergone many iterations and renovations throughout its history. Dr. Paul Thorlakson, former Chief of Surgery at the Winnipeg General Hospital, established the first surgical recovery room here in the early 1940’s with Dr. Oliver Waugh.

In May 1952, a more formal recovery room was opened on F-3 Balcony. The unit could accommodate six to seven beds and was staffed by two graduate nurses. Between 1952 and 1954, the recovery room treated approximately 1,500. Its capacity was greatly increased in 1960 when the unit was upgraded and moved to D7. In this unit, more than 3,000 patients passed through in 1960 alone and there were additional plans to improve the facilities.

On June 19, 1961, the recovery room moved again to a larger space on G-7. The new recovery room consisted of 25 stretcher beds and two isolation units, and is staffed by six graduate nurses and two ward-aids. The space was designed by a sub-committee made up of surgical staff, Jessie Simmie (the Head Nurse of the recovery room), and the Architect. The space was designed with the provision of critical care in mind. The Generator describes the unit in the following way:

“All the latest concepts in intensive care therapy were included, and the design features the ‘everything off the floor’ principle so that there are no bedside tables or I.V. poles to trip over. Overhead rails carry the I.V. units and each stretcher bed is positioned beside a recessed unit containing two suction outlets, Oxygen and BP apparatus. Shelving is also recessed into the walls. The stretcher beds are of the latest design and are equipped with hydraulic elevators, side rails, straps and a special shelf for the patient’s record.”

Patients were expected to stay in the recovery room for approximately one hour after surgery, however the unit was well equipped to handle more serious incidents. At this time, the recovery room handled both post-anaesthesia and surgical intermediary care. The Post-Anaesthesia unit provided close supervision of patients until the patient regained consciousness from the anaesthetic, at which point they were transferred to a nursing unit. Surgical Intermediary Care (later Intensive Care), on the other hand, treated patients that were critically ill and required specialized nursing and medical care. In the 1970s, the unit split into the Post-Anaesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and the Surgical Intensive Care Unit; it was at this time that the Surgical ICU was officially opened.

A new Surgical ICU was opened on H7 in 1984 to offer improved specialized care for critically ill surgical patients requiring additional medical care and attention. Before the new unit opened in 1984, SICU had remained physically part of the Recovery Room. The former facilities were only able to accommodate between 500 to 800 patients per year, however there were approximately 1,000 surgical patients that required care at HSC each year.

In 2006, SICU was opened in the Ann Thomas building. This Unit was again an improvement on the old facilities, and nearly doubled the size of the Unit from 3,500 sq. ft. on H-7 to 6,800 sq. ft. in the Ann Thomas building. The new SICU also saw improved features, such as the ceiling mounted service columns. These moveable columns contain the nurse call and Code Blue buttons, electrical and medical gas outlets, shelves for monitors, and clips for IV bags and storage.


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