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Hospital's new-look garden a blooming success with patients

Image shows people standing in a garden

Gorseinon Hospital is using its newly-developed courtyard garden as a way of aiding patients’ recovery.

Patients can enjoy nature and admire the bees, butterflies and flower beds following a transformation of the garden, but a new daily programme has also been set up to boost their recovery in a natural way.

The seeds were sown for the redevelopment after the hospital came top in a nationwide vote to secure some of the £50,000 secured by Keep Wales Tidy’s Healthy Hospital Gardens initiative through the National Lottery People’s Project.

An outdoor area used by Morriston Hospital’s burns and plastic surgery unit, along with Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, has also benefitted from the funding.

The Gorseinon garden has already proved a budding success with raised beds, a covered seating area and wildflower turf among the new features.

Debra McNeil (pictured second from right), matron at the hospital, said the new-look garden offers many mental and physical benefits.

She said:I witnessed first-hand the dedication from the volunteers, local businesses and community - without their sheer determination and commitment to the project we would never have achieved this beautiful space for our patients and staff to enjoy.

“With the gardens now complete, a daily programme has been created so patients can have input in the garden by planting, feeding and weeding the planting areas.

“This will give many patients confidence to realise their rehabilitation potential in a natural way.

“Staff wellbeing is high on our agenda and the gazebo is there for staff to enjoy during their much needed breaks in a non-clinical area.”

The completion of the work is a dream come true for Christine Pettifer, site manager at the hospital.

She has spent 13 of her 26 years working in the NHS in Gorseinon. She’s in no doubt how beneficial the new-look courtyard will be to all concerned.

PICTURE: A view of the garden before work commenced.

She said: “For years this has been my vision. We were lucky enough to have won the lottery and I’m ecstatic with the end result.

“It is a dream come true for me because the patients, staff and visitors can now enjoy the area.

“One of our patients told me she used to be in a gardener’s club, so she’s hoping to be in the courtyard garden every day for half an hour either doing some gardening or just taking in the view.”

Work on the courtyard started in February 2020 and was expected to be completed within a year, but the start of the covid pandemic stunted progress.

However, a combination of commitment, community spirit and sheer goodwill has finally resulted in a project which will benefit the wellbeing of patients, staff and visitors.

Mark Humphreys, assistant technical services officer, has been involved in the project since its inception in 2018.

He said: “From day one, this project has been something the community has got behind.

“Once we were among the projects in the running for the funds, I spoke to staff in Gorseinon Hospital and elderly age groups in the area. They offered to take leaflets around the area for people to vote.

“People were also voting at the hospital when they were having their blood tests.

“We canvassed in Morriston Hospital too, with all levels of staff helping out. It meant we had the most votes in Wales with just under 5,000.

“Gorseinon is very lucky in that it has a real strong sense of community. We’ve had so many volunteers help out on top of the fantastic support we’ve kindly received from local businesses.

“A lot of people that have been part of this were doing their day job and then putting in a shift in the garden on top of that. That gives you an idea of their commitment to making this courtyard a place to relax and enjoy.”

Relaxation and enjoyment form part of the benefits the courtyard brings in terms of wellbeing.

Patients and staff can quickly switch from a clinical setting to embracing nature within a few footsteps.

Des Keighan, assistant director of estates, said: “We have transformed the courtyard to an area which will benefit the well-being of everyone involved.  

“Biophilia is the recognition that humans benefit from interacting with outdoor space.

“You don’t feel like you’re on hospital grounds when you’re sat on a bench in the courtyard looking at the beautiful garden.

“Just having a place where you can sit, relax and rest your mind can’t be underestimated.

“This garden epitomises what we are trying to achieve, which is providing inspiring spaces on our sites. 

“We have a lot of space across our hospitals that are concrete parking spaces. Now we are looking at our spaces differently – we are trying to make the most of the environment we have got, and that doesn’t finish at the bricks and mortar, it’s about looking the grounds.

“It’s important that we build on successes like the courtyard in Gorseinon.”

The project bloomed thanks to Keep Wales Tidy’s Healthy Hospital Gardens initiative.

Pamela Bacon (pictured right, front row), Keep Wales Tidy regional manager, attended the opening ceremony of the courtyard to see the full extent of the work.

“We’re very proud in what we’ve been involved with in Gorseinon Hospital because it will make a difference to a lot of people,” she said.

“It feels like you are part of nature in the courtyard.

“It’s great for the patients but also for the staff, who have high pressured jobs, along with relatives. It’s a place to rest and refresh and to enjoy the flowers, bees and butterflies.

“It won’t be onerous in terms of maintenance. That’s why we’ve gone with wildflower turf, which has taken really well.

“We’re looking forward to seeing how the garden flourishes.”

Nuria Zolle (pictured left, front row), independent health board member, cut the ribbon to officially open the courtyard.

She said: “I have had been humbled by all the support and help the health board has received. It stands as a beacon of what we can achieve when working together.”

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