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Covid commemorative project close to completion across four hospitals

Image shows a man and woman sitting

PICTURED ABOVE: Health Board Heritage Lead Martin Thomas and Susan Jones, Divisional Manager Hospital Operations, at the Neath Port Talbot commemorative space.

A commemorative project marking the impact of the pandemic is emerging across four Swansea Bay UHB sites.

Staff and patients will be able to rest, reflect and recharge at the four commemorative spaces created at Singleton, Morriston, Neath Port Talbot and Cefn Coed hospitals.

Image shows women sat at a table  The work, which is nearing completion, will see each hospital having dry stone circular pods connected with timber benches. The pods will feature clay tiles that have a drawing or word chosen by staff following a Finding Words consultation process to sum up their feelings about the pandemic.

PICTURED: Staff attended workshops to create their messages on clay tiles.

These spaces will also mark the incredible work of health board staff during unprecedented times. They have purposely been sited outside in prominent locations so visitors and the public can also use them.

Martin Thomas, Health Board Heritage Lead, came up with the idea of the commemorative project along with the Staff Experience team. Neath Port Talbot Council and Swansea Council were also represented on the project’s steering group.

Martin said: “The project will honour and remember those who lost their lives, along with recognising front line workers who put patients’ lives first. It will also capture the social solidarity and support our community gave to us.

“There is no doubt the Covid pandemic had, and continues to have, a huge impact on all of our lives.

“Since the start of the pandemic, we have sadly lost colleagues while staff have lost family and friends.

“After seeking the opinions of staff, it was evident that quiet outdoor areas of reflection were needed across the health board’s sites in order to give everyone a chance to gather their thoughts and remember family, friends and colleagues lost during the pandemic.

Image shows clay tiles “Our staff are the focal point of this project and we want them to have an area to take themselves away from the working environment.

“We are delighted with how many staff took part in the creation of clay tiles for the project, and we’re really looking forward to seeing all four spaces once they are finished.”

PICTURED: Some of the clay tiles and messages created by staff for the project.

Over 350 clay tiles have now been laminated onto stone and inserted into the commemorative features.

Highly-regarded community artist Nigel Talbot held arts workshops across the sites and formulated the design with award-winning dry stone waller Allan Jones helping him deliver the project.

The project’s workshops have also involved local school children and members of the University of the Third Age (U3A).

Nigel said: “I wanted to create arbours, a retreat or a sanctuary and very early on decided on stone to create permanent structures.

"As I started to make models, I thought of the way that we were all expected to exist within ‘bubbles’. I decided upon building circular structures that nestled against each other that were connected with timber seating that pierced through the walls binding the ‘bubbles’ together allowing conversation across the walls.”

Each space is unique as the tiles designed specifically by staff feature in the site they are based.

With the help of the health board’s fundraising team, the project has been funded by NHS Charities Together, whose Covid 19 appeal was famously supported by Captain Sir Tom Moore, and all spaces are earmarked for completion by the end of October.

Image shows a woman sitting on a wooden bench CEO Mark Hackett said: “We welcome this commemorative, sensitive and compassionate solution connected with staff to remember those staff we have lost in the covid pandemic.

“Remembrance is a key part of dealing with the immense emotion we all feel about those who lost their lives in caring for others. They showed fortitude, courage and bravery in helping to support those who needed it most.”

Chair Emma Wollett said: “I am delighted that we have these spaces and to hear about the collective effort to create such moving messages by our staff, local schools and U3A.

“It is very important that we mark the experience of Covid in a meaningful way.”

PICTURED: Junior doctor Hyatt O'Callaghan pictured at the commemoration space in Singleton Hospital.

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