December 2009 was the 80th anniversary of the establishment of a hospital on the Newtown site now occupied by Wakefield Hospital. It also marked the first 20 years in the existence of Wakefield. Lewisham Hospital opened in 1929 on the existing site – then an abandoned brickworks. It was built by Fletcher Construction on land leased from local Maori. The then Prime Minister, Sir Joseph Ward, and Governor-General, Sir Charles Fergusson, opened the hospital.
Lewisham was owned and operated by a Catholic order of nursing sisters, The Little Company of Mary. The order was founded in 1877 by Mother Mary Potter and had hospitals in England, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. At the time Lewisham Hospital was being built at Newtown there were also Lewisham Hospitals in Sydney and Christchurch, from which the nurses for the new Lewisham Hospital in Newtown came.
The name of the hospital was changed to Calvary Hospital in 1953. Mary Potter Hospice operated at Calvary until 1990.
In 1987 Wellcare Corporation purchased the hospital and renamed it Wellcare Hospital. It was one of several hospitals owned by that company. Wellcare Corporation became a casualty of the 1987 stock market ‘crash’ and in 1989 a consortium of investors featuring a high proportion of local medical specialists purchased the hospital from the receivers of Wellcare Corporation. It was renamed Wakefield Hospital.
This transaction also included the voluntary renegotiation of the then perpetual lease of the land from local iwi, represented by the Wellington Tenths Trust.
The new lease was established on a commercial basis, this being much more favourable to the owners than the terms permitted by law under the old perpetual-lease system. It was one of the first of the old ‘Maori’ leases to be renegotiated on this basis. In the course of the continued expansion and upgrading of the facilities at Wakefield Hospital over the next ten years the freehold of the land was purchased from the Trust in 1999.
The original 1929 building is the core of the existing building, extending eastwards from the main entrance. Its featured open verandahs on all floors quickly fell victim to Wellington’s prevailing northerlies and were glassed in 1932. A west wing was added in response to the demand for services at the Hospital, and the Williamson family later donated funds for eastwards extension of the original building to provide more rooms and to house a radiotherapy unit.
Wakefield Hospital has been continuously upgraded and expanded over the years. Recent building projects were to extend the Theatre Suite to seven theatres (including two digital theatres), providing new change rooms and theatre tearoom. A major upgrade of the Wakefield Specialist Medical Centre has also taken place.
Parent company Wakefield Health Limited changed its name to Acurity Health Group Limited in August 2012 to better reflect its own unique identity as owner of three private surgical hospitals and its investment in other health related organisations across the country.