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Canterbury's new child health service celebrated and unveiled

Cantabrians can at last see where the millions of dollars they raised for enhanced child health facilities has been spent…and the experts promise it’s worth the wait.

The Māia Health Foundation worked with the community to raise $3.2 million to enhance the child health facilities at the new Christchurch Hospital Hagley, which is opening next month.   

“You almost can’t compare what we have now to what we’re moving in to – the difference is so vast.  While it has taken us a long time to get here, the wait will be worth it,” says Canterbury DHB paediatrician Dr Tom Townend.

More than 10,000 children come into Christchurch Hospital each year as inpatients and they and their families will all benefit from Māia’s $3.2 million cash injection.

The enhancements include bespoke designed child-focused theming throughout all child health areas and a children’s play area for patients and their families alongside the children’s ward.  There are now 60 parent beds so family/whānau can sleep alongside their children in much greater comfort.

The funding has also enabled a real game-changer…a Family Room for parents of children in hospital, which is situated between the children’s wards.  This will give parents the opportunity for much-needed time out from the stress of being in hospital and includes three purpose-built bedrooms to further enhance families’ ability to be present for their children.

“Children don’t choose to come to hospital. When they do, we want the experience to be as positive as possible,” says Dr Townend.  “We can achieve this by providing a welcoming environment that meets the child’s needs for distraction and ready access to their loved ones.”

“Having a more positive experience will vastly improve psychological outcomes for children and their families, which will then enable them to better engage with us as health professionals.  If we are better able to meet the psychological needs of sick children, we will see better health outcomes.  Funding from Māia Health Foundation has made this possible” says Dr Townend.

Māia Health Foundation Chief Executive Michael Flatman says when a child is ill the entire family is impacted, and it’s the need to support that wider whānau that has driven Māia over the last four years.

“Since Māia’s inception we’ve been focused on bringing our child health spaces up to the modern, family-focused standard that children and their families deserve.  Some of these details may seem minor – like providing a bed for a parent or caregiver – but the difference that will make in terms of the wellbeing of the child and the entire family will be immense,” says Michael.

The Smolenski family understands what that difference means.  Maree Smolenski has lost count of the number of times her son Jonty has been admitted to hospital due to his rare genetic disorder trichothiodystrophy (TTD).  The family donated to Māia’s campaign for the parent beds as a way of turning their experience into something positive.

“Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial in helping parents and caregivers handle the emotional toll of having a sick child.  Having a hospital that is more family-friendly is really going to make a huge difference,” says Maree.  

Mark Spurgeon and the Studio Publica team were given the task of creating bespoke theming for the new child health services.  The result is Matatiki, which is inspired by the Canterbury landscape and the view out of the hospital windows.  Māia’s funding has enabled the installation of this theming.

“Often being in hospital is not where you want to be and we know for children it can be really tough.  Creating this fun, engaging and welcoming theming is just a little way we can help soften the environment and support children and their whānau through their journey,” says Mark.

Māia’s Michael Flatman says they can’t wait for the new hospital to open, so families can at last see and experience what the Canterbury community has achieved.

“Raising $3.2 million to fulfil Māia’s mission of taking our child health services from good to great is an incredible achievement and we are so proud of the support we received to make this happen. 

“Special recognition needs to be given to the Rainbow Children’s Trust which donated $1.2 million towards Māia’s vision, Cyril Smith for his amazing $1 million bequest and the Pearson family for their significant donation.”

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