Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Urban renewal at Royal University Hospital

If you haven't visited the mall at Royal University Hospital (RUH) lately, it's worth the trip.  For those of you not familiar with RUH mall, the far end of it had fallen on hard times.  It used to house an outpatient pharmacy, which was converted into a mail distribution kiosk, then became an empty, derelict husk of a structure, and finally, a bleak open space.  It was the type of place where, when walking by, you'd lock the doors and roll up your windows.

But, from barren ground has sprung a blossom!

Several weeks ago, as I prepared to hustle through no-man's-land, I was surprised to find that someone had installed a fireplace in the middle of the empty space.  Over the subsequent weeks, decorative dividers appeared, followed by plants, tables and seating.

I usually pass by this area in the evening, when the mall is quiet.  But today, I walked through at midday and it was alive with people!  Staff, visitors and patients were having lunch at tables, reading in armchairs, and enjoying the river view by the big windows.

It's a complete renewal of this space!

I wish I had "before" pictures to show you, to demonstrate what an improvement this is.

The best thing about this space was this: I felt proud to walk through it.  Frankly, the old space was an eyesore.  I would go out of my way to avoid it if I were showing someone around the hospital.  Now, it will be an attraction.  What's next in the mall? Concerts at noon? Art shows? Public lectures?

As I admired the area, 3 friends of mine passed by.  We chatted and I asked what they thought of this new common area.  They were all very happy with it, and pointed out that it has become a gathering point for people working, visiting and being cared for at RUH.

But, I asked myself this:  How the heck did someone sell this idea?  We seem to be chronically underfunded in healthcare, and I'm sure there would be many demands on the money that went toward this renovation.  You could make a case that it was frivolous, that our business is healthcare, not interior design.

After seeing all the people enjoying themselves in the mall today, I realized that an investment like this is important for healthcare - perhaps not the technical side, but certainly the caring side.   We traditionally measure success in healthcare through outcomes - mortality, infection, hemoglobin A1c.   But, taking into account the entire experience of healthcare is at least as important as outcomes measures.

The RUH mall renovation shows that someone recognized the importance of experience in healthcare.  To the person who championed this face- and spirit-lift: Well done!


  1. Sorry Kishore, but someone 'sold' this idea by taking money desperately needed for other infrastructure projects.
    This 'facelift' is nothing more than icing over a burnt cake.
    Upstairs on the 4th floor for example lies the Chem lab that has a leaky roof for approximately 3 years. The recent rain fall overfilled the 'temporary measures' to fix the leaks (go on up and look at it some time... 3 buckets in the false ceiling catching the leak)
    Right underneath that leak is the brand new million dollar analyzer that does a lot more for patient care than wi-fi access and a fireplace for people to hang out by.
    Employee's 'spirit' suffers when they are treated like their opinions don't matter and that their issues are not taken seriously. I'm sure the staff that has worked with the leak in the chem lab for the last three years would appreciate the regions' desire to address the problem. That would show a 'caring' commitment to the staff.
    Of course, now they lack the money to fix this issue, one among many.

  2. Thanks, Anonymous, for this great insider insight. There must be many places in SHR in need of renovation, as the lab obviously is. I wouldn't enjoy being the person who has to choose between utilitarian and aesthetic.

    I appreciate your point that choices in resource allocation send a message (whether intentional or not) to the people who may consider themselves on the short end of the stick. I don't know the solution to this one, i.e. how do we let the people in the lab know that their work, safety and comfort is valued in the face of such a challenging work environment. Can anyone help us with this? Please leave a comment.

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