15 Feb 2015

Designed for Disability

From One In Five, 7:20 pm on 15 February 2015

Katy Gosset visits a Christchurch hospital where tetraplegic patients are helping to redesign the spinal injury facility.

Phil Humphreys checks out the new facilities for spinal injury patients at St Georges Hospital
Phil Humphreys checks out the new facilities for spinal injury patients at St Georges Hospital.

Phil Humphreys likes a shelf for his radio in a hospital bathroom, while a mirror at the right level is useful too.

And he's happy that a private hospital in Christchurch is seeking this kind of input from spinal injury patients.

"One good thing I like about St Georges is they're asking the users what they think would help make their stay and any other person coming in's stay as comfortable as they possibly can be."

St George's Hospital was damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and, as new wards are built, tetraplegics who use the facility have been offering advice on what works best for them.

Some of the new retrofitted rooms contain overhead hoists that carry on into the bathroom, allowing patients to be moved easily in a sling and with minimal exertion.

The rooms also mimic the layout of the ICU facilities so patients who have adapted to one system don't face another change in recovery.

Other patient feedback called for better shelving and larger rooms to better accommodate wheelchairs.

Louis Le Febre at St Georges Hospital
Louis Le Febre at St Georges Hospital.

Louis Le Febre describes himself as "new to the game" having been in a wheelchair for four years.

He's still adapting to his disability and, in particular, to the many accommodation facilities that have poor accessibility.

Hence he says the space in the new St Georges facilities is great as "wheel chairs take up a lot of room."

"I’ve got the one that I'm sitting in parked and then, of course, when I go to have a shower it's a different chair and then you've got chairs for guests - you really need space or else you're literally climbing over yourselves."

Louis says the hoist system is also very easy to use and requires a fraction of the energy usually needed to go to the bathroom.

"And I even get to drive the remote, so it’s all good !"

The Patient Care Manager Rae Green with plans for the new hospital development
The Patient Care Manager Rae Green with plans for the new hospital development.

The hospital's Patient Care Manager, Rae Green, says management were adamant that spinal patients would help design the recovery rooms.

And she says their input has been invaluable.

"We would never have had the insight without their feedback so we're really grateful to them for offering us their time."