Conrad Gargett has designed and delivered a new Minor Illness and Injury Clinic (MIIC) for Queensland Children’s Hospital in what is the first of its kind in an Australian paediatric hospital, providing vital support to its Emergency Department and offering an alternate General Practitioner (GP) led model of care.
The Queensland Children’s Hospital has experienced a significant increase in the volume and nature of presentations to its Emergency Department since the COVID-19 pandemic, placing pressure on its services and the need to rethink the way patients are cared for in a timely manner.
“It really challenged us to think about what different levels of care would look like as an adjunct to the Emergency Department,” said Perrin Moss, Integrated Care Program Manager at Children’s Health Queensland.
“Literature at an international level says that 40-50% of all presentations coming through Emergency Departments could be safely and effectively managed by a GP-led team outside the Emergency Department setting.
“Acknowledging patients are coming to us because a GP is not available – whether it be outside of business hours, or they are unable to get an appointment – led us to test a model where a GP would be accessible within close proximity to the Emergency Department.”
Conrad Gargett was called upon to explore a range of options and locations within the existing building for the new clinic, with the final outcome achieving over double the size and capacity to what was originally conceptualised to include four consultation rooms, a dual treatment space, telehealth room, kitchenette, clean and dirty utility rooms and an expansive waiting area.
“We looked at different areas within the building, from the ground floor right up to level 5, but what we went back to was the former convenience store space which was prime real estate that was underutilised, offered a really good connection to the Emergency Department, great crossflow and connection to the outside and central atrium,” said Paul Emmett, Principal at Conrad Gargett.
“Architecturally we worked that area really hard – we pushed it to make sure that we took full advantage of the engagement with the central atrium and existing large form artwork and made use of spaces that were underutilised, even outside of the clinic space.
“It has also added more engagement with the Main Reception – which, from our perspective, we always envisioned would be an activated space.”
Art was a major priority in the project, with Conrad Gargett working closely with esteemed senior art curator, Lynne Seear, Manager of the Arts In Health Program at Children’s Health Queensland, to integrate art in the design.
“The decision was made at the beginning of the project to have the best art we could find – not to compromise on the quality that happens so often in healthcare facilities because some people have the impression it’s a luxury add on – or there are cheaper ways to do it,” Lynne said.
“What you have on the walls or floors should match in excellence the quality of care that is being delivered.”
First Nations’ artists are featured front and centre in the MIIC, in line with the Queensland Children’s Hospital’s commitment to having over 50% of art by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists.
“Nine out of ten works are by First Nations artists – we can do that because First Nations’ art is fantastic – it’s really dynamic and diverse and it’s also an obvious a way to announce that a space is culturally inclusive – it doesn’t do the whole job, that’s up to people in their interactions and systems and processes, but it does some of the job,” said Lynne.
The role of quality art and design at Queensland Children’s Hospital is recognised and highly valued for its positive impacts on the patient and visitor experience.
“It’s not just about making an aesthetically pleasing environment; it’s about creating an environment that makes people feel safe and comfortable. There is a huge degree of thoughtfulness required to put that environment together, which both subliminally and overtly, communicates that we want them to have a good experience in the hospital,” Lynne explained.
“If people feel safe and comfortable, then their perception of the care that they receive is directly impacted for the better.
“Perception of care has a huge influence on how people will respond to clinicians, the kind of communications they have, whether they’re listening, whether they will trust the staff and be compliant with instructions, and therefore whether the treatment will be successful and what the recovery will be.
“I like working with architects who from the beginning are thinking about what can we do to make the space habitable, to humanise it, to make people feel like we’ve really thought about how they’re going to be impacted on a sensory level and how are they going to use the space,” she added.
Since its opening in June 2022, the MIIC has proven to be a great success.
“We receive positive feedback on a daily basis – the staff love working in the space,” said Perrin.
“The flow of the patients in and out of the space has also been really effective.
“Once patients are referred to the clinic, it’s between an 8-12 minute wait for them to be seen by a clinician in the Minor Illness and Injury Clinic, as opposed to what could be a number of hours waiting in ED, depending on how busy it is,” he added.
Conrad Gargett has a longstanding relationship with Queensland Children’s Hospital, having delivered the hospital with Lyons in 2014 and continued to be engaged for design services over the past eight years.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice has been engaged to design a number of other critical paediatric facilities in addition to the MIIC.
Many small projects with complex technical requirements have been requested with a degree of urgency to address emerging clinical needs and support best practice care for children. These include additional Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) ward negative pressure isolation rooms, COVID-19 ward isolation facilities upgrade, COVID-19 ward staff amenities and change facilities, temporary COVID-19 Emergency Department additional holding assessment and Immunisation Clinic alterations.
Conrad Gargett continues to work hand-in-hand with Queensland Children’s Hospital to support its delivery of world-leading paediatric healthcare.