The difference made by Mr Cyril Smith's legacy

The difference made by Mr Cyril Smith's legacy

Game-changing, a miracle, just like winning lotto. 

It was a legacy that Mr Cyril Smith left in his will – a wish for $2 million to go to the Burwood Spinal Unit. This bequest formed part of an incredible $20 million that Mr Smith left to 16 Canterbury charities.

It was a windfall that came just one month after the formation of the Māia Health Foundation, established to raise funds to enhance health services in Canterbury. And the gift came at the perfect time for the Burwood Spinal Unit. The 30-bed service caters to patients from Hastings across to New Plymouth and everything South, but the 40-year-old buildings were no longer fit-for-purpose and were earthquake damaged. The planned partial rebuild and refurbishment, funded from insurance proceeds and capital expenditure, could only go so far. 

Cyril Smith’s legacy changed that. 

“When the earthquakes hit the unit was old and we were looking at just repairing the seven single rooms and potentially putting in ensuites. This bequest has allowed us to look much wider,” says Burwood Spinal Unit Service Manager Liz Oliver.

What has now been created is what looks and feels like a brand new building. The seven re-built rooms, which now all have ensuites, merge seamlessly into the older part of the site, which has been updated with new paint and vinyl. All patient rooms now have ceiling hoists, some of which go not only around the room but also into the ensuite bathroom, along with specialist TV arms installed over the beds.

Cyril Smith’s bequest has also enabled the creation of a computer space for patients and their families to use as well as a Whanau Room, with tea and coffee making facilities, a shower and bathroom.

“The family need to be able to have a space away from the patient area so to have something where they can have a shower, have a cup of tea, have a break out, is just fantastic. It’s really big for families to also feel like they’re part of the service when they’re here,” says Liz.

On top of all of this, the older part of the site has been reconfigured to allow for greater storage spaces, provide better working areas for staff and an upgraded kitchen area – all changes that would not have been possible with Mr Smith’s bequest.

Brenda is a patient at the Burwood Spinal Service. She says the upgraded facilities have made it safer for the patients as well as the staff.

“It’s a really good set up. The overhead hoist can go all around the room and straight into the bathroom as well. The larger room is just much more homely and the decor and everything is really nice,” says Brenda.

After years of planning and a year of construction, the new Burwood Spinal Service building opened in late 2019.

“It was such a delight walking into our new facilities and having all these extras that just wouldn’t have been possible without Mr Smith’s bequest. We are incredibly grateful to Mr Smith and his family for the difference they have made,” says Liz.

Michael Flatman agrees.

“Nothing in the health system comes cheap so to be able to take a really good service and to take it from good to great is just amazing and it’s all thanks to Mr Smith’s legacy,” says Michael Flatman.

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