New children’s play area and adolescent room opened by Minister Harris at St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar

Play area provides a haven for children during cancer treatment

St. Luke’s Hospital, Ireland’s only centre providing paediatric radiation therapy to children

A new play area for children and an adolescent’s room at St. Luke’s Hospital, Rathgar part of the wider St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network (SLRON) were opened today (Friday) by Minister for Health Simon Harris. The event was also attended by senior management from SLRON, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, Department of Health, the National Cancer Control Programme (NCCP), the Friends of St. Luke’s (FOSL) and patients and their families.

St. Luke’s Hospital is the national, and only, centre providing radiotherapy treatment for children. In 2016, 40 children were treated at the hospital, with each child receiving several weeks of daily treatment. The treatment regime can require very young patients and their parents to spend several hours each day in the hospital’s Radiotherapy Department.

Prior to this initiative, whilst toys were available for children there was no child friendly indoor space for children to occupy while they waited for their treatment or while they were being monitored post-treatment. It was recognised that better play and recreational facilities at the hospital were important to helping children and their families during their cancer treatment.

In 2015, a multi-disciplinary group was established to develop an indoor play area within the hospital. The area they selected is close to both the radiotherapy nurses station and close to the anaesthetic recovery room. The Group also worked to develop an adjacent ante-room as an adolescent area, in recognition of their differing needs from younger children.

In September, 2015 the Friends of St. Luke’s came on-board with the project and approved funding for the new areas. Antoin Doyle was appointed architect for the children’s play area project.

In tandem, the final design of the adolescent area was selected by way of a competition organised in conjunction with Griffith College Faculty of Design. The brief was to design a room where young people could wait for treatment whilst feeling comfortable and relaxed.  The completed space encompasses a games console area, re-charging stations for devices, TV and comfortable seating. 2nd year student Anette Lund’s design was selected for this part of the project.

Several families of previous paediatric patients contributed to the project including contributing financially toward the overall cost of the project and/or provided an extensive range of toys and equipment for the children.

Amongst these families wereDavid and Tina Fitzgerald, parents to Katie (16), who was treated at St. Luke’s but passed away in 2007 who organised a Black-tie Ball to raise funds for the Adolescent Room. Whilst Alan and Valerie Farrell, parents of Ben (5), who was treated at the hospital but passed away in August last year, donated toys for the children’s playroom in memory of Ben.

Minister for Health, Simon Harris, TD speaking at the opening commented: “The hard work of all stakeholders in bringing this project to fruition must be commended. Hospital treatment, particularly for cancer, can be a scary and daunting prospect for children and their families but having a safe area such as this which distracts and entertains young children can provide welcome relief.

I would particularly like to recognise the families of those who have lost sons, daughters, brothers and sisters to cancer for the contribution they have made to making this project a reality. For them to give something back to others, notwithstanding their own grief, is hugely admirable”.

Dr. Orla McArdle, Network Director of SLRON also noted: “There is no doubt that medical treatment is the critical part of what we do at St. Luke’s, but the mental health and well-being of our patients is equally important to us. That’s why we are particularly proud of the fact that a need identified by our staff has come to fruition in such a meaningful way – through collaboration with patients, families and FOSL. These play areas are a significant and welcome addition to the facilities we already have at our hospital. We hope that they will allow children to forget about their conditions and treatment even for a short period and allow them to just be children. Equally for the parents of young children these areas provide the opportunity for them to play and engage with their children in a more natural and relaxed environment than in a hospital waiting area. This was an important objective for us”.

Dr. Susan O’Reilly, CEO of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group commented: “The opening of the new play area and adolescent room is an important part of the ongoing development of patient services at St. Luke’s Hospital.

As Ireland’s only treatment centre providing radiation therapy to children and young people, facilities such as these play an essential role in supporting children and their families through their cancer journey. These facilities fit into our collective objective of ensuring that the patient experience is always the best that it can be and broader than just their immediate treatment needs”.

Fiona Campbell, Finance and Office Manager FOSL:

“Without our wonderful fundraisers throughout the country, this amazing space for children, teenagers and their families would not have been possible.  It means so much to the children and their parents to have this space available for play, privacy and recovery and will make their treatment at St Luke’s Rathgar a more comfortable experience.  It is so important to acknowledge our fundraisers, on behalf of all the children who will benefit from their hard work.”