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Art, infrastructure and care are the future of Westmead Children’s Hospital

Hospital visits, unknown illnesses, new entrances and blocked pathways can make parents weary. It is important to parents and carers that their loved one gets the best care. At Westmead Children’s Hospital (WCH) new infrastructure developments aim to offer the best care, growth and innovation with the newest facilities for people in Greater and Western Sydney.

Stage one developments and redevelopments are complete and the second stage of the infrastructure is due to be completed in 2025 and will cost $619 million. The Second Stage of construction was announced to commence later this month and give the community playgrounds, gardens, family rooms and accommodation for worried carers. The vision for the future includes open floor plans for family-friendly time and in the middle, a large fish tank to inspire curiosity. The children will be able to feed their imagination with endless possibilities and creativity.

In an interview with The Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN) earlier this month, New South Wales (NSW) Premier Dominic Perrottet said “This redevelopment will deliver the best paediatric healthcare in the country.”

Alyssa Gillgren, a social worker for WCH recalls the previous upgrades on the first stage and how that will play a role in how others will react to the upcoming changes. “When they opened the new emergency unit it was new, exciting and fresh,” she says.

With the Stage 2 redevelopment on its way, Gillgren is most excited for the hospital to be rejuvenated and upgraded like other hospitals across Australia. “In the short-stay unit, everyone has new rooms avoiding contamination and diseases. It’s brighter and fresher, everyone is excited about the coming infrastructure. They’ll be a big slide and a new operating theatre. All the other hospitals have been upgraded. Melbourne and Queensland got a big upgrade and for some reason, NSW got left behind,” says Gillgren.

The virtual walkthrough is available on NSW Health Infrastructure’s Youtube Channel.

 

 Healing with Art

While the developments are in the works, WCH has been making a huge difference in simple ways. ‘Operation Art’ is an art exhibit created by WCH and the NSW Department of Education.

Since its conception in 1995, students aged Kindergarten to Year 10 can create artwork for sick kids. All students have an opportunity to contribute to the walls of WCH. Children can create art for display in the children’s ward up to A2 in size. They can either work individually or in groups of up to four. All artworks will be displayed at Sydney Olympic Park in September later this year. Only 50 of the best artwork goes on tour to places such as Wollongong Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of NSW before ending up at WCH. WCH is a registered art gallery in itself needless to say the hospital agrees with the many benefits art provides to patients and the community.

Social worker Gillgren reflects on her little sister’s achievement of being selected to be a part of ‘Operation Art.’

“Back in 2013 or 14 my sister had one of her artworks nominated through her high school to enter into ‘Operation Art’ it was on display at Newington Armoury at Olympic Park and then it travelled to different galleries. It was really cool to see her artwork amongst all the others. It was a good achievement.” Today she walks down the same halls as a medical professional “I think it definitely brightens everyone’s day seeing all the really colourful artwork. We have them in our offices. We get to see bright colours in a normally dull and dark hospital,” says Grillgren.

The artwork has a positive impact on children who are going through a challenging time. Olivia Skinner spent her teenage years in and out of the hospital. She fought cancer in Westmead Children’s Hospital and says the art was always a joy to walk past. “It made the hospital feel more like a home than a hospital. It was always nice seeing the beautiful art on the walls that the children made,” says Skinner.

Art can make a big difference for kids in these difficult times. A simple piece of beautiful artwork can make the day seem less dull. As reported in the 2006 ‘Visual art in hospitals: case studies and review of the evidence’ by Louise Lankston “Although art and science are vastly different there is still little we understand about both and there are some instances where the impacts on health can be treated by art when science fails,” says Kirsty Schirmer, Policy Officer of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Art.

Art has a profound way of connecting to humans to inspire joy and imagination. “Exposure to The Arts has a profoundly beneficial impact on patient wellbeing through its use in health promotion and messaging,” says Health Infrastructure NSW.  These health messages may include assisting pain thresholds for patients. In 2021, Dr Elizabeth Broadbent in New Zealand conducted research into pain thresholds and proved art helps increase patients’ pain tolerance.

Walking down hospital halls of empty white walls can be daunting. Sometimes hospitals can feel like a maze. At Westmead hospital patients, visitors and medical staff can view art on their way and in the future enjoy the state-of-the-art developments.

 

For more information:

NSW Health Infrastructure: https://www.hinfra.health.nsw.gov.au/our-projects/project-search/the-children%E2%80%99s-hospital-at-westmead-%E2%80%93-stage-2-rede

 

Art Unit -‘Operation Art’: https://artsunit.nsw.edu.au/program/operation-art

 

Stage 2 Virtual walkthrough – NSW Health Infrastructure’s Youtube Channel.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1kW2av_CSDo&ab_channel=HealthInfrastructure