Tuesday 11 October 2022

A new hospital?

The city I live in has a "central business district" (CBD) surrounded by parkland. It was deliberately designed this way. There is a "square mile" with a grid of streets, surrounded by the land, then "the river" - which is not much more than an oversized creek - and then you go up a small rise to the cathedral and another grid of streets.  Yes, it was all designed by one Colonel Light. 

The good Colonel thought that the green belt was important. The park lands are supposed to be there for the enjoyment of the residents of the state "in perpetuity". 

Naturally some people think it is fine to encroach upon them. They put in a race course - and not just for horses but cars. They have buildings dotted over it which belong to various sporting clubs who use the area for tennis, cricket, baseball, softball and more. Some of it is rather bare, other parts have small gardens - one of them a lovely Japanese style garden. The old cemetery is there. 

Along the river bank they have built more and more. Perhaps that is inevitable. 

The problem is that none of this has really been planned very well or very sensibly. There is a limit to expansion...unless you use the parkland. There are divided views about that. A chunk has been already been taken for the hospital which was built a few years ago. Now they want to take another chunk for the dedicated women's and children's hospital - which is  currently on a too small block on the other side of the river. 

Yes, they need a new hospital for children and the women's area certainly needs to be expanded. That said I look at the hospital which was opened a few short years back. It was said to be "world class" and was certainly extraordinarily expensive - the most expensive in the southern hemisphere in fact. The architecture was said to be outstanding.

There is just one problem with all this. The place really is not fit for the intended purpose. My doctor-nephew worked there for a while. The place has no staff rooms or even staff lockers. It has no meeting rooms. It has no canteen for the staff. (It has no kitchen at all. Meals are brought in from outside.) Patients are only in single rooms. That may be very nice but there are problems associated with that too. It makes the place incredibly expensive to run. It is difficult for the staff to monitor patients, especially when staffing levels go down rather than up. It is why our friend P... phoned me after twelve one night. I had to phone the hospital to get them to phone the ward to get someone to go to her. Nobody had checked on her for almost six hours. 

And the building has so much wasted space. There are large areas that serve no purpose - an entrance area the size of a cathedral and a lay out which requires twice the number of lifts - none of which can be used in an emergency. The power has failed more than once and it is only good luck the emergency generators kicked in for the theatres. (There are too few theatres and they are not in the right location.) 

Now they want to build something similar next to it for the children. The plan is to actually build something with a smaller number of beds for a growing population. The staff are still trying to get the basic staff facilities they need. They are saying that individual rooms, except for the most critically ill children who are constantly being monitored, are not suitable for children. If adults will leave their beds when they have been asked to remain there then children most certainly will.

Are the architects and the planners listening? No, they just want to use that green space.

My own view? Build something that works, not a monument to a firm of architects. Don't take away all that green space. Leave it there and give sick children a green space. It might make all the difference. Just ask people what they think of Queen Square Garden near Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

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