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Patients, nature at heart of clinic redesign

Posted By: Posted By: Mike Houlahan - Otago Daily Times on Sat, 11 July 2020

Despite the Covid-19 shutdown and winter weather, mental health facility Ashburn Clinic is confident its new inpatient wing will be open by December.

The $4million replacement of Ashburn’s main wing is part of an $8million revamp of the clinic’s facilities, which includes earthquake strengthening, asbestos removal and renovations.

Ashburn’s Halfway Bush location has posed some problems for builders, such as puddles on the site freezing over in frosty weather.

The location of the new main wing has also caused some design issues, being right beside a massive, historic sequoia tree.

"The tree was a significant player in the design and there were some changes made due to the tree," nursing and allied health director Monique Lammers said.

"We have had close contact with an arborist in terms of looking after the tree: we also had archaeologists in because of the age of the site but unfortunately it did not turn up much."

Rather than view the building work as a noisy disruption to their healing community, the clinic’s staff had sought to involve patients in the design of what for many would become their home.

"The patients have been involved right from the beginning, as much as they were interested in it," Ms Lammers said.

"They were involved in choosing colours for rooms, cabinetry colours, and when we showed them around they thought the lounge was too small so we removed a wall — some of them are acutely interested, because they are the ones that live here."

The new building incorporated two previous Ashburn wings, Pinel and Conolly, which combined provided about 36 beds.

Conolly was deemed unusable due to earthquake strengthening issues, which dropped Ashburn’s capacity to 17; the new building meant Ashburn would soon have 27 beds in its main wing, alongside other residents in self-care units.

"We have people here at different stages of their treatment, and those who have been here for a while are instrumental in helping new admissions," Ms Lammers said.

"It is much more meaningful when someone with actual lived experience says something, when someone who has walked that walk says it."

The two old buildings, which included the former stables, dated back 100 years or more, and some of the Pinel building’s heritage fixtures and fittings were being incorporated into the new building.

"We have salvaged some of the old windows and some kauri window shutters, and some old wallpaper which we will frame," Ms Lammers said.

The centre of the new building was a meeting room which could hold up to 60 people.

Its other floors included office space, residential units — some with en suite, an art room, and a communal lounge and kitchen.