Creating calmer spaces for kids in emergency departments
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Hospitals 05 April 2023

Creating calmer spaces for kids in emergency departments

If you’ve ever had to rush a child to emergency, you know it can be a scary time. Here, staff explain how our new children’s emergency departments are making a difference for families in Victoria.

Across five of Victoria’s busiest hospitals, we are designing and building new specialist emergency departments just for children.

The $102.4 million program will deliver new children’s emergency departments at:

  • Northern Hospital in Epping
  • Frankston Hospital
  • Casey Hospital in Berwick
  • Maroondah Hospital
  • University Hospital Geelong.

These facilities are designed to provide a private, calm and reassuring environment for kids receiving treatment, and their families.

They are designed with children and families in mind: walls are painted with muted colours, with fun decals at child height. These spaces also maximise natural light and minimise noise.

Sensory rooms provide kids with adjustable lighting, video and audio – so families can adjust and control their own environment.

The program will also help meet the growing demand for paediatric emergency care, reduce wait times and provide more personalised care for children and families.

Why do we need children’s emergency departments?

Special areas for children were an important part of the $34.9 million Sunshine Hospital emergency department redevelopment (completed in 2021) and the $76.3 million Monash Medical Centre emergency department expansion (completed in 2022).

Associate Professor David Krieser, Director of Paediatric Emergency Medicine at Sunshine Hospital, says: ‘In a regular ED, kids may get upset at the sight and sound of distressed and injured adult patients. Creating a space that they recognise as designed for families can help keep children, parents and carers calm.’

He’s seen how this makes a difference.

‘I’ve seen mums with young babies pacing around the ED, quite upset – for example if the bub isn’t feeding well.

‘I bring them to the kids’ ED and into a space that clearly caters for mums and babies. I point out the baby bottle-warming station and baby procedure crib, in case treatment becomes necessary.

‘This lets them know they are in the best possible place and can settle into a comfy chair to talk about what’s wrong.’

Image of A/Prof David Krieser standing against a colourful background within the Sunshine Hospital children’s emergency department

A/Prof David Krieser, Director of Paediatric Emergency Medicine at Sunshine Hospital uses wall art to engage with kids.

How do the different features improve the experience for children and families?

Dr David, as he’s known to families at Sunshine Hospital, explains that using treatment rooms designed specifically for children – where they can close the door for privacy – are useful for procedures like taking blood.

‘The kids can choose something they like to watch and listen to on an iPad, to help them feel more comfortable and create a distraction.

‘The requests aren’t always what you might expect, like Bluey or The Wiggles. We’ve had a young patient say that surf videos would chill him out. One boy had been hurt playing basketball, so he asked to watch NBA highlights to think about getting better and back on the court.’

If a little one struggles to express what they’d like, staff will ask a sibling, parent or carer what would work best.

‘This flexibility means we’re not imposing a one-size-fits-all approach of what we assume kids would want to look at.

‘We also have assessment rooms with discreet repeating patterns like flowers, snails and sunshine. We ask if they can spot one of these on the wall to engage and distract them, taking their thoughts away from their immediate experience.’

How do the new children’s emergency departments benefit clinicians?

A/Prof Krieser says that children’s emergency departments entice an increasingly skilled workforce to Victoria’s public hospitals.

‘Since opening the Sunshine Hospital kids’ ED, we’ve attracted paediatric emergency medicine specialists to work here – bringing their skills and knowledge.

‘Working with kids is a specialist skill, and having the kids’ ED area helps us all refine our skills.’

Learn more about making emergency departments safer, calmer places for our kids.

Expansion of the Royal Children’s Hospital

We are also expanding the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Due to be completed in 2024, the $49.4 million expansion includes an additional 20 treatment spaces in the emergency department to meet growing demand. A new 30-bed inpatient unit was completed in late 2022.

Take a look around the new unit at the Royal Children's Hospital

IMAGES: View upwards from street level of the hospital tower from two different angles.

TEXT: A multi-million dollar expansion of the iconic Royal Children’s Hospital continues to take shape with the first stage of the massive $49.4 million upgrade now complete.

IMAGES: A view inside the new floor tracking down a long corridor with staff base in the centre and treatment rooms off each side.

TEXT: This stage has delivered a new 30-bed inpatient ward.

IMAGES: View inside a patient unit with cot, ensuite and couch, and views to outside parklands.

TEXT: Take a look inside.

IMAGES: View of a consulting room, with different adult and child sized chairs and tables.

IMAGES: A patient unit with bed, ensuite, couch and view to outside parklands.

IMAGES: View inside a doctor’s consulting room.

TEXT: The new ward will treat around 2,700 children every year.

IMAGES: View upwards from street level of the hospital tower.

TEXT: On track to be completed in 2024, the next stage of the project will deliver a bigger, better emergency department.

IMAGES: The closing slide is the Victorian Health Building Authority logo, the web address and the Victorian State Government logo.

End of transcript.

Investing to meet future demand

An additional $1.7 billion of funding in the 2022-23 State Budget is being invested to increase capacity and meet future demand in hospitals and health services across Victoria. This includes $236 million for new emergency departments at Casey Hospital and Werribee Mercy Hospital.

Construction on new emergency departments at Werribee Mercy Hospital and Casey Hospital are due to be completed in 2026.

$10 billion for Victorian's public health facilities

The Victorian Government has also committed $10 billion to help deliver world-class care for families across the state.

This includes the $5-6 billion expansion of hospitals and research facilities at Arden and Parkville including new campuses at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and Royal Women’s Hospital.

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Last updated: 05 April 2023