New national’s children’s hospital in Dublin may have ‘theme’

Architects interested in tendering for the project are to be asked to suggest themed designs

Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group, said research has shown a fundamental clinical benefit and better outcomes for children who are treated in this environment. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group, said research has shown a fundamental clinical benefit and better outcomes for children who are treated in this environment. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Thu, Nov 21, 2013, 01:00

Visits to the national children’s hospital in Dublin will take on an entirely different character if proposals to incorporate evidence-based design in the new structure are adopted.

Architects interested in tendering for the project are to be asked next week to suggest themed designs similar to those adopted by hospitals in New Zealand, Australia and the US.

The proposals will not only have to meet the demanding requirements of a state-of-the-art hospital but will also incorporate design elements not typically associated with medicine.

Citing the example of Auckland’s Starship hospital, Eilish Hardiman, chief executive of the Children’s Hospital Group (CHG), said research has shown a fundamental clinical benefit and better outcomes for children who are treated in this environment.

“It is about engaging them, involving them, curiosity, imagination and all of those things.

“It is evidence-based. It has been demonstrated through evidence-based design that if you create this environment the children are healing faster and they have better outcomes.

Starship hospital features a rainforest theme while Melbourne’s award-winning Royal Children’s Hospital boasts a two-storey coral reef aquarium, installations by Australian artists and a meerkat enclosure managed by Melbourne Zoo.

Ms Hardiman was speaking at the launch of a report commissioned by Ombudsman for Children Emily Logan on identifying how child-friendly healthcare and a culture for children’s rights can be developed across Ireland.

Ms Logan said the complaints received by her office are often not about primary resources. “They are often about interaction, they are about communication. They are about the experience of perhaps being treated not in a very respectful way or people not understanding”.

She said poor communication can quickly lead to conflict when the substantive issue is in fact “very small.”

The research, undertaken by University College Cork, identifies ‘building blocks’ such as raising awareness of children’s rights in healthcare, developing and implementing standards on the rights of children in healthcare settings and listening to and using the views and experiences of children as the basis for action.

The National Healthcare Charter for Children, also published today, identifies ten key principles aimed at ensuring that children receive high quality healthcare that is appropriate and acceptable to them and their families.