Last May, when parent Andrea Lavalleé walked into the Meadow Lake auditorium for a community design session on Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan, she made this point:

Early interior design concept of the main lobby area. Visit saskatoonhealthregion.ca/chs

Early interior design concept of the main lobby area. For more renderings, please visit saskatoonhealthregion.ca/chs

“The main thing I wanted to get across is when we talk about accessible, we think that accessibility means how we get a child in a wheelchair into a room,” she explained. “What accessible really means for families who use a power chair is how can they participate in an accessible area? How can they participate in all the activities? Not just get one swing (or) one mat. That the design is all inclusive. That’s what accessible means.”

Insight from Lavalleé and other parents and families from across Saskatchewan has added a level of richness to the detailed design of Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan. The design development report for CHS was submitted by Saskatoon Health Region to the Ministry of Health in December. Today, it is moving through the normal review process associated with a government-funded capital project.

This report is the culmination of eight months of intense design work by project team members, architects, and most importantly, hundreds of staff, physicians, patients and families. Detailed design looks at how each room should be set up – including family areas. The teams also worked to develop the list of equipment and furniture needs.

This phase included four rounds of week-long sessions with design teams and equipment planners from May to September 2012. The fall was then spent finalizing the plans and creating the design development report.

“We are so thankful for everyone’s dedication and hard work in creating this submission, especially our patients and families,” says Craig Ayers, Children’s Hospital of Saskatchewan Project Director, Saskatoon Health Region. “The ongoing participation of all our Saskatoon-based design team members was key to this phase. And just as important was the participation of children, teenagers and parents from across Saskatchewan who took the time this past spring and summer to share their ideas and feedback with us.”

The project team knew it could not travel to every area in the province. They chose five communities based on current users of pediatric and maternal services in Saskatoon. They also considered the desire for this hospital to reflect the cultural and regional diversity of Saskatchewan as recommended in the provincial Patient First Review.

Hearing the voice of children and teenagers

Within the communities of Stony Rapids, La Ronge, Ile a la Crosse, Meadow Lake and Kerrobert, the project team visited 12 classrooms and worked with more than 250 children and teenagers from Grades one to 12 to capture their design ideas. The team also asked for, and received, more than 200 completed design activities that were mailed from children and teenagers, primarily from central and southern Saskatchewan.

Working with Royal University Hospital school teachers and the recreational therapist, design concepts by current pediatric patients were captured and fed into the design process. And finally, children and teenagers at the July 2012 CHS Open House in Saskatoon, and at the FSIN Health and Wellness Conference in August 2012, completed design activities to enhance the project team’s information.

Health-care Facility Site Tours

During the community visits, the team toured local health-care facilities and talked with local care providers about their needs and challenges. To obtain additional information on First Nations design concepts, the team visited the All Nations Healing Hospital in Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan. All the tours added to information already gathered by the project team through tours of children’s hospitals in Canada and the United States in previous years.

Talking with provincial parents and families

The project team invited local parents and families to talk about their needs and wants for the new hospital. This was further enhanced by a design session in June in Saskatoon for newcomers, along with on-line surveys asking families their opinions on what should go in the lobby and their interior design preferences for the maternal floor and neonatal intensive care units.

Construction at Royal University Hospital site well underway.

Meanwhile, extensive work is underway at Royal University Hospital with parkade construction and site preparation work for the new hospital. A new helix ramp system for the parkade is being built, the parkade expansion is nearly complete, and work has started to create one of two new entrances for both RUH and CHS.

Next steps in building the maternal and children’s hospital

As the team continues through the review and approval process with detailed design, they are preparing for the next phase of work with architects, engineers and design teams on the hospital’s design documents (blueprints). That work is expected to take most of 2013.

“This phase will allow us to really bring the vision to life as we add in the details of the mechanical, structural and electrical elements of the building which will give contractors the information they need to build,” explains Ayers. “It will also allow the project team to have the last pieces of information it needs to create the complete image of what the new maternal and children’s hospital will look like when the doors open.”

Through 2013, the team will focus on further developing the interior design palette for the hospital. This work will be supported by a team which includes families and front-line staff and physicians. This may involve further input from patients and families from across Saskatchewan.

And it’s that opportunity to have a say which prompted Lavalleé to attend Meadow Lake’s design session last spring. “I am just so excited that people were taking the time to come up north and talk to us and listen,” she explained. “I am going to sleep a lot better now that I said my piece and whatever happens, happens. But at least I know I was a small part of it.”

The detailed design of the new hospital is expected to be unveiled in early 2013.