Part of a $59,000 donation to Tauranga Hospital that was going to be used to create a therapeutic play area for children receiving mental health treatment, will now go towards a garden instead of a playground.
This time last year the then Bay of Plenty District Health Board acting chief operating officer Bronwyn Anstis said the "generous" donation from Countdown , through its annual kids' hospital appeal, would, among other things, cover the cost to install the play area in an outside area attached to the mental health unit at Tauranga Hospital.
Anstis said at the time that there would be traditional play equipment as well as a water feature to help children relax while at the hospital for a treatment session. They hoped to have it installed early this year.
However, the district health board has now said that while its preference "was to create a playground area", the technical standards required to develop a playground would have exceeded the size of the donation from Countdown.
"So creating a lovely garden space was deemed to be the best and appropriate use of this donation."
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The district health board said the original plans and design to create the space required earthworks due to insufficient drainage.
"This, together with shading requirements would have exceeded the budget significantly, therefore we needed to rethink the original design. We are looking forward to action our new ideas early in the New Year, as this will create an enhanced waiting/play or garden area for younger children."
The district health board said it hoped to "have improvements in place" by February 2020.
A recent internal report written by the outgoing service manager of the Maternal, Infant, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services stated the outdoor space was "a bone of contention".
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The manager, Michelle Jones, who quit the job earlier this month, wrote: "Although the sentiment is lovely it would be remiss of the DHB to accept this money given that the interior of the building is in desperate need of being able to accommodate the current workforce."
She went on to say: "The interior of the building is not child or adolescent-friendly and $30,000 on a garden that doesn't address privacy requirements would be foolhardy."
Jones wrote that some suggestions for the space included squeezing in more pods and covering in the outdoor area so that staff had an area to go to.
She said there had also been feedback from a young person, "who would like a playground please".
"And some staff think that a playground would be more beneficial than a landscaped garden."
The district health board's current chief operating officer, Pete Chandler, said in a statement that they had registered the need for a new child and adolescent mental health service building as part of its long term investment plan – "the capital investments we need to make over the next 10 years" – with the Ministry of Health.
"But it may be a while before a new facility is operational. We want to do the best we can for our children, and this is a gratefully received donation from Countdown Kids, that will make a difference for children attending ..."
He said the district health board had added two areas of extra space over the past three years and will be considering whether there is anything more that it can do.
Chandler said the child and adolescent mental health service building was "utilitarian and surrounded by other buildings and car parks and we want to create a safe outdoor space for our children".
A Countdown spokeswoman said the Bay of Plenty District Health Board let the company know earlier in the year that the costs to develop the play area were higher than anticipated, and that it would need to re-evaluate its original plan.
"We were happy with this approach and it's our understanding that the money donated has yet to be spent while this is worked through. We're continuing to keep in the loop with the DHB's plans."
Last year the district health board said the $59,000 donation from Countdown would also be put towards mobile vision and hearing testing kits for children to have these checks in the community, and portable paediatric monitors for Tauranga Hospital's Children's Ward, allowing sick children to be continuously monitored as they are moved between wards or hospitals.