Karen Morgan, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation, stands in memory garden at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. The foundation will launch a $2-million dollar campaign next month to help improve the garden as part of larger improvement to the hospital’s long-term care unit. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Saanich Peninsula foundation looks to grow funding for hospital memory garden

Foundation will start new campaign next month as it wraps up recruitment campaign

Flowers, front porches, a greenhouse, and a vintage car.

These are among the elements that will go into the memory garden at Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

The garden, says Karen Morgan, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and Healthcare Foundation, will give long-term care residents with dementia a chance to safely wander the hospital grounds. More importantly perhaps, the memory garden will help stimulate memories. For example, the vintage car, a 1947 Chrysler currently undergoing renovations by members of the Torque Masters Car Club, promises to rekindle memories of travel and being behind the wheel of a car, said Morgan.

To make these goals reality, the foundation will launch a campaign next month to raise $2 million.

“A significant portion of that will go towards completing the garden,” said Morgan. The money will also go towards buying equipment, such bed-side tables, and decor improvements to dining rooms. “They look like high school cafeterias,” said Morgan. “They are great for holding events, when the Peninsula Singers come to perform, but the staff would like to create some more intimate spaces. We would also like to paint and buy new curtains, refresh the room.”

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Looking at the broader picture, the coming campaign aims to update and refresh the hospital’s long-term care unit with its 150 beds.

“That part of the hospital was built in 1974 to 1978,” she said. “So it’s quite of age and the patient population has changed radically since that time. They are older and frailer, and tend to be more affected by dementia.”

Medical and care practitioners have responded to this fact with the introduction of various therapy programs.

“We have music therapy, we have yoga therapy, art therapy, horticulture therapy, and something what our nurses love and comfort therapy,” she said. That last therapy, she added, involves the use of dolls, robotic cats and dogs, and AI-equipped robotic seals.

Work on the memory garden is on-going and started with a $500,000 bequest from Enid Blakeney, who over the years contributed what Morgan called a “significant amount of money” to various projects, including half the funding to the hospital’s inter-faith chapel.

“She always felt, from the time that her husband was a resident here, that people needed more places to walk in this hospital,” said Morgan. “She was a tough woman. She used to take her husband out of his wheel chair, and get him to the top of the berms that surround the parking lot [to] give him a different view. So we have gotten a start on the garden, and we are also building walkways around the south area of the hospital as well.”

This new fund raising campaign appears on the horizon as the foundation prepares to wrap up its campaign to help Shoreline Medical Society recruit eight new family physicians to the Saanich Peninsula. The non-profit charity operates facilities in Brentwood and Sidney and the foundation currently needs to raise another $120,000 towards the campaign’s goal of $2-million, with the money having gone towards the necessary facilities.

“It has been a transformational one for the foundation, because it is the first time that we have raised funds for a project that is outside the walls of the hospital,” said Morgan. “We are so gratified that the community trusted us to use their money wisely for a new purpose. We take that responsibility very seriously.”

The eight new family physicians from inside and outside of Canada are now in place, and promise to improve care. “Those physicians that are coming into the community and are working within Shoreline Medical Society are also providing service at the hospital,” said Morgan. “Having those doctors is critical to the health of the hospital.”

But the foundation is also thinking bigger.

“We want every person on the Peninsula to have a family doctor — that is our ultimate goal,” she said. “The best way to get care is through a family physician, who has that relationship with you and can provide continuity.”


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