CHILDREN hospitalised at the St Ann's Bay Regional Hospital will now have a room where they can enjoy themselves and take their minds off the stress of being ill.
The "Doc Sue's Happy Room", which was officially opened on the paediatric ward last Saturday, is the first of five such rooms to be implemented in hospitals across the island. Similar rooms are expected to be set up at the Percy Junor Hospital in Manchester, Port Maria Hospital in St Mary, Savanna-la-Mar Hospital in Westmoreland and the Bustamante Hospital for Children.
The project to establish the 'happy rooms' is being undertaken by Dr Suzan McLennon-Miguel, a veterinary specialist in public health.
Dr McLennon-Miguel came up with the idea to set up these rooms for hospitalised children for her civil project after being given the civil servant of the year award for 2011/2012.
"The Happy Room was created to provide a relaxing atmosphere for sick children where they can laugh, learn, interact and enjoy activities for a brief moment from the hospital setting," said Dr McLennon-Miguel.
The room not only has toys but also several educational materials which are expected to enrich the lives of the young patients.
Dr McLennon-Miguel said her idea of the Happy Room was inspired by Dr Hunter Doherty's belief that "laughter, joy and creativity are an integral part of the healing process".
According to clinical psychologist at the St Ann's Bay Hospital Dr Pearnel Bell, the room could however serve a wider purpose.
"I am sure I am going to be using that room for play therapy," she said.
Dr Bell, who was the keynote speaker at the launch, said that "play has been significantly reduced" by parents today and so children may lack certain skills which are influenced by this activity.
"In fact, the cognitive process is enhanced when a child engages in play because it increases the creativity and imagination," Dr Bell said, adding that play helps in the development of the brain of children.
"Play is beneficial in developing their social skills, their ability to interact, their ability to get along," she said.
Dr Bell also reiterated that play significantly helps in the development of the quality of empathy and showing consideration for others.
She went on to add that play helps children in decision-making and problem-solving.
"Many of our children are not effectively learning how to make decisions or how to solve problems," she explained.
"That's why we have so many children talking about suicide because they don't understand that there are so many options."
Important to the hospital setting, play, she said, will help to distract children from the unfamiliar setting of the hospital and from pain.
While play is important, Dr McLennon-Miguel said the room will not be only about that.
"It is more than a playroom, it's a room where you can share happy thoughts, learn new things and interact with each other," she said.
Keith Richards, chief executive officer, said the establishing of the Happy Room at the hospital is a platform for sustainable development.
"What you have done is provided us with a benchmark for a sustainable programme," he said.
Richards revealed that the hospital will be partnering with the HEART/Trust NTA, which has already agreed to come on board. The institution will provide persons with early childhood training to man the room.
The room is said to have cost approximately $700,000 to set up. Dr McLennon-Miguel said she was able to secure sponsorship from several organisations with the Spanish Grain Store coming on board as the golden sponsor. The overall goal of the project is to refurbish a room or space located on the children's wards of the five hospitals to create a "happy room" for the hospitalised kids.