Community support is helping to create more healing spaces

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When the Just for Kids (JFK) Clinic opened 23 years ago at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, it had just an office and two small exam rooms.

“I felt that I always had to say (to parents), ‘it’s the care that counts, not the space, not the décor,” recalls Dr. Dilip Mehta, the Clinic’s director. “But I do think space is important.”

Heather Wilhelm, Project Manager in St. Joe’s Redevelopment Department, says that physical space plays a huge role in promoting healing and wellness. “It’s a very simple concept – having adequate space for care that also allows a person to feel like they can heal is so important,” she says.

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With this in mind, creating better spaces for our patients is the focus of several fundraising initiatives and redevelopment projects happening right now at St. Joe’s.

“There is a lot of evidence-based research about how your environment feels and impacts how you perceive your care – and in many cases, how quickly you recover,” says Maria Dyck, President of St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation.

She says several recent events – Celebrate St. Joe’s, St. Joe’s Ladies Lunch, St. Joe’s Plate and Summer Solstice – raised close to $450,000 combined this year, with all funds going towards improving and renovating spaces across the Health Centre. “These events in particular are focused on supporting the patient experience and comfort,” Dyck explains.

Plans to complete the expansion of our Just for Kids (JFK) Clinic are underway thanks to support from Gary Selke, President and CEO of Front Street Capital and the R.P. Bratty Family Foundation.

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Today, this busy clinic is situated on the third floor of the new, state-of- the-art Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) Wing, which opened in July 2012. It has over 12,000 visits a year with a roster of 17 paediatricians, who care for kids when their regular family doctor isn’t available.

Renovations will expand the JFK’s exams rooms from two to four and create a more child-friendly waiting area on the entire third floor. Plans include creating nature-themed exam rooms, while bringing elements of nature and local neighbourhoods surrounding St. Joe’s into the main waiting area.

This means that kids will get the care they need faster, in a space that is fun, welcoming and meant for them to explore and keep entertained while they wait.

“We have a better space now and as soon as kids walk in, they love the place; they feel happy. Parents are much more relaxed too. The right space can make a big difference,” says Dr. Mehta. “This expansion will make it even better for families.”

Renovating some of the older patient lounges is a fundraising priority for Marilyn Lightstone, a supporter who is giving back after turning to her local hospital when she needed eye surgery. An award winning actress and artist, Lightstone says the care she received was exceptional, and donated over 100 pieces of artwork to help add some colour to the hospital environment. But she wanted to do more – and together with her partner, Moses Znaimer, the couple hosted “Celebrate St. Joe’s” in May 2014 raising over $100,000 to support this project.

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About 10 patient and family lounges will be newly designed and outfitted with Lightstone’s artwork, along with new and modern furniture and lighting. Once complete, the lounges will offer calm and beautiful spaces where patients can comfortably spend time with loved ones during a visit, or use it as a place to relax and take a break from their medical treatment.

In another example of community support helping to create better patient spaces, Toronto resident Mary Anne De Monte Whelan wanted to make a difference by raising awareness about mental illness and support the important services St. Joe’s provides to this vulnerable population.

The $62,000 raised from St. Joe’s Plate, spearheaded by De Monte Whelan, will provide much needed enhancements that will make a world of difference for mental health patients.

“We want to provide an environment that fosters the recovery and well-being of our patients,” says Dr. Jose Silveira, Chief of Psychiatry at St. Joe’s. “When we pay attention to the space around us in a hospital, it gives us the opportunity to optimize it so patients feel safe and comfortable.”

The dining area and lounge will be revitalized with new furniture, paint and artwork, making this common space feel like “home away from home” and be a place where patients can come together to interact, move around and have some activity – which is essential in the recovery process, adds Dr. Silveira.

Wilhelm is excited to see how patients across the Health Centre will benefit from all of these changes.

“Just about anything can be redesigned and renovated, but doing this in a hospital where improving the built-environment has an impact on a patient’s road to recovery, well, that’s why I’m in health care,” says Wilhelm.