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Community Garden at PAH

Tuesday 05 May 2020

For patients at the Princess Alexandra Hospital's (PAH) Geriatric and Rehabilitation Unit (GARU), being able to step out into a beautiful garden each day would provide not only a break from their treatment and but a restful space that may aid in their recovery.

Now they have just that thanks to community support, Brisbane City Council, and a little help from the PA Research Foundation (PARF).

Turning a former storage and wasted space next to the wards into a community garden had been on the mind of GARU Clinical Nursing Consultant (CNC) Jenny Kohlhardt for some time. Through fundraising by staff and successful applications by PARF for two Brisbane City Council grants she was able to make the idea a reality, establishing the native garden in a shared space between two GARU wards, Bunya and Cassia. The space can also be utilised by PAH's Brain Injury Unit and Older Persons Mental health units, also housed in Building 7 at the PAH.

"Help with the grant funding was crucial for the success of the project. Without it we wouldn't be where we are now," she said.

The garden improves patient experiences by creating a restful place for patients to visit and by offering a space for social and physical interaction through gardening groups and outdoor leisure activities. Increasing the garden's impact is its potential to host educational activities for the wider community including primary school students, gardening clubs, and families to learn about bees, worms, gardening and recycling.

Jenny said the native garden was a true hospital community effort, PARF providing grant funding, administration staff placing the never-ending minor work requests; approval from business managers; and everyone from physiotherapists, social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, doctors, cleaners, and the hospital's tradesmen contributing in important ways to readying the area for opening. Patients have also kindly donated significant funds during their time in the wards.

"We had to fundraise, meaning staff were involved in donating funds, baked goods for sales; raffles; fun shirt days and MasterChef's competitions in order to succeed. We put out a survey to staff and patients and their families, so that all stakeholders had their views about the changes required recognised," she said.

"There is so much time and effort put into this garden, for example, all the planters, we had to go and pick them up, that's staff in their own time, myself and Maria Draper (GARU CNC) and her husband David, Hui Liu and Rachelle Deleon and ex staff member Peter Dormer were picking up soil because it's expensive to be delivered.

"Staff had to find the time to water the plants every day in the early stages. Patients have come on board now which is great to see, and watering has become part of their early morning activities.

"We have had some great people donate their time and funds. So many people have brought something of themselves into the space including food scraps for our worms and woodworking skills. Everyone is important."

The design of the garden was helped along by GARU pharmacist and keen permaculture gardener, Aria Monazeh and involved acting on survey feedback from patients and staff which included biodiverse plantings and murals by 100 Bees for Brisbane artist Claire Stephens and Metro South Health staff member Emma Alyce Parker.

The long-term vision is for the garden to link with the local community through plant propagations; contributing to other community gardens and for the PAH's occupational therapists and physiotherapists to use the space for rehabilitation activities that mimic home life as the design facilitates access to plants that require watering and pruning and leisure activities such as native bee watching.

GARU's Director Dr Paul Varghese said the garden, which was officially opened on 11 March, had been a hugely positive exercise for both patients and staff.

"Patients and their relatives find it a nice place to come when they are visiting and it's been a successful project, staff have benefitted, patients have benefitted, and patient's relatives have benefitted," Dr Varghese said.

"As a team building exercise for the ward it's been good, there has been a lot of comradery, just in getting everything set-up and sorted, a lot of collaboration between nursing, medical and allied health. The whole project has been very positive."

Brisbane City Council Gabba ward councillor Jonathan Sri also supported the project by providing referrals to providers of plants; potting mix, hanging baskets and wood for planter boxes.

"It was a pleasure to support this project financially and to personally meet so many of the people who are enjoying the garden space. Drawing links between healthcare, art, and gardening helps build connections between patients, staff and the wider community, and prompts us to take a more holistic and innovative approach to caring for people," Cr Sri said.

"Spending time in gardens is obviously really valuable for patient recovery, and I want to congratulate all the staff and volunteers who've gotten behind this project."

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