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Gandel Wing, Cabrini Hospital – Melbourne, Australia


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We wouldn’t wish illness on anyone, but if one must stay at a hospital, we wouldn’t mind if instead of the run-of-the-mill scary infirmary, we’d be treated at Gandel Wing, Cabrini Hospital, Malvern in Melbourne, Australia.

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Cabrini Health’s new Clinical Services building reminds us more of elegant hotels and Poliform stores than hospitals. And while many health care organizations, both private and public, have started to think of patient and staff comfort and well-being in addition to the curing of illness and treating of sickness and injury, we have a long way to go.

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Efficiency and the clinical perspective have long ruled the medical world and the facilities in which it operates. The result has been equipment, premises and attitudes that are not necessarily conducive to healing and helping in a way that makes lives better for the patients and staff.

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Of course, money is always the deciding factor, and even if the will to change is there, the funding often isn’t. Private hospitals for the wealthy are in one sense widening this gap between themselves and what is offered to the less fortunate segments of population. But perhaps they can also serve as examples of what can be done with sufficient funding and perhaps some of the ideas can be adapted in less costly ways.

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Sydney and Melbourne-based Bates Smart is a multidisciplinary design and architecture firm that has worked with Cabrini for more than 50 years. For this $120-million maternity and oncology hospital, they have strived to create an environment that invokes the patient’s overall sense of wellbeing rather than immersing them in the scary process of being sick, ill or injured. Every aspect of the design has been scrutinized from the perspective of the patient, rather than the perspective of the processes or equipment.

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Natural materials, natural light and views of nature are all aspects of a healing environment that should not be impossible to integrate into all new hospitals, even those that don’t have the most lavish of budgets. Here those aspects are paramount as is the paneling that hides equipment, the technology that serves the patient, the overall comfort of the workspaces for staff and the flexibility of design features so that future changes can be accommodated.

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One aspect of this 16,350 square metre (175989,935 sq. ft) hospital we appreciate is the integration of the radiotherapy facilities into the building so that cancer patients can receive integrated care in one location.

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In contrast, life-saving health care is being provided all over the world in the most impoverished of circumstances, and the contribution of the doctors, nurses and staff will always be the most crucial and critical aspect of any care. In the overall scheme of healthcare, much can be learned from those tireless healers about how much can be done with very little. However, with benchmarks such as this private Cabrini hospital, perhaps there are aspects that will inform the entire field – and some of the learnings can help secure funding for improved health care everywhere. Tuija Seipell.

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