New look mental health unit unveiled

Mental health patients and their families now have a space to call their own after the major refurbishment of the acute mental illness ward at The Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Hall Ward, which was officially unveiled to the public today, features a number of upgrades that reflect and nurture the specific needs of patients and families including a new sensory room, refreshed patient rooms, additional clinical and communal living space as well as an improved outdoor area with more recreational facilities.

All changes to the unit were made in consultation with young people and parents from the Parent Advisory Committee to ensure the refurbished space would be somewhere patients would feel relaxed and at-home.

Anna Lester, Nursing Unit Manager of Hall Ward, said the modifications to the ward's internal and external spaces will make a significant difference to the ward's look and feel as well as to the mental and emotional well-being of patients on the ward.

“The changes will not only make the environment safer, but more homely and familiar and offer variety of spaces for more physical exercises, group activities and quiet contemplation,” Anna said.

“We hope the improvements will measurably reduce anxiety and incidents of challenging behaviour and strengthen coping resources as well as fostering positive experience – which in turn improve outcomes and reduce the time children need to spend in the ward in the first place.

“It can often be a challenging time for our patients and we are always looking at ways to make the time they spend in Hall Ward as comfortable, and welcoming as possible.”

The refurbishment of Hall Ward was made possible thanks to a $500,000 investment from the NSW Government, as part of a NSW Government $20 million boost to improve the therapeutic environment of mental health facilities across the state. It was also supported by the generosity of Sydney Children's Hospitals Foundation and their donors, EVENT Hospitality and Entertainment and Stuart and Susan, who both contributed $300,000, $120,000 and $30,000 respectively.

As a priority area for the Network, improving mental health outcomes and the therapeutic environment has been a major focus over the past year and was the main aim of the refurbishment. The changes highlight that care extends far beyond the physical aspect of treatment.

"Holistic care relies on putting the patient and family at the centre of everything we do, engaging them in decisions that relate to their care and providing an environment that is going to aid their recovery," Anna said.

The reopening of Hall Ward coincided with the ward's anniversary, marking 15 years of operation. To commemorate this significant milestone, young people from Hall Ward designed a special artwork that was presented at the opening and will be hung in the unit for all patients, staff and families to enjoy.