Extraordinary gift to help patients’ families

The teams at Auckland City Hospital are so grateful to have received a donation of more than $896,000 to complete our whānau rooms refurbishment project.

Desmond’s gift will make a profound difference for so many families for years to come.

The extraordinary gift is the result of a bequest made by a former patient, Desmond Schollum (pictured above, right, with his parents Joseph and Frances), who was grateful for the hospital care he received before he passed away.

Whānau rooms should allow friends and family to relax and reflect when supporting loved ones in hospital, but feedback from staff and whānau is that many of these rooms are currently uninviting and have lost the essence of their original purpose. In 2018, Auckland Hospital embarked on a mission to transform its 40-plus whānau rooms into comfortable, calming spaces that meet the needs of all whānau.

The refurbishments have relied on the generosity of hospital supporters who share the belief that whānau rooms should be improved. Desmond’s gift, left in his will, has helped make the hospital’s vision a reality.

A relative of Desmond’s, Dr Virginia Farnsworth-Grodd, said the family is happy these vital hospital spaces can be redeveloped thanks to his support. 

“The impact of Desmond’s gift will be ongoing and very helpful to other families, and it is comforting to know he is supporting family-centred care and involvement for patients,” said Dr Farnsworth-Grodd.

Desmond’s cousin Dame Claudia Orange said, “Desmond is a descendant of emigrants from around Pilsen, Czech Republic, who migrated in 1863 and 1874. The emigrants settled at Puhoi, north of Auckland, where local Māori provided support with shelter and food when they first stepped onto the Puhoi riverbanks. Over the years, Auckland Hospital has been so helpful to Desmond’s family and we hope his donation will inspire other families to contribute in the future.”

As Auckland Hospital’s charity, the Auckland Hospital Foundation has been fundraising for the whānau room refurbishments, and Desmond’s donation is the largest received for the project.

Auckland Hospital Foundation Director Candy Schroder said previous donations have allowed for seven whānau rooms to be refurbished, but the goal has always been to raise the full $1.2 million required to complete the project.

“Mr Schollum’s gift will make a profound difference for so many families for years to come. Whānau rooms become a place for family to gather, take a breath and rest during challenging circumstances, as Paul’s family discovered.”

Paul Faa’lago spent 13 weeks in hospital following a lung transplant, and the whānau room at Auckland City Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit became a home away from home for his family.

Lung transplant recipient Paul Faa’lago with partner Tanya

Paul’s partner Tanya Walker said, “Having our family around was so important to Paul’s recovery. It was great that everyone could regroup in the whānau room when they couldn’t be at Paul’s bedside, which was difficult when he was so sick. The more welcoming these spaces can be; the better for everyone.”

Leading New Zealand businesswoman and philanthropist Theresa Gattung funded the refurbishment of a Women’s Health whānau room in 2021.

Ms Gattung said, “Auckland Hospital was the first hospital to establish dedicated te ao Māori whānau spaces in 2003. They are especially important to Māori concepts of health and wellbeing. […] But over time the rooms had become rundown. They had lost their kaupapa and started to be used for other purposes.

“The project was initiated in 2018 by Auckland DHB Chief Nursing Officer Margaret Dotchin and advised by Chief Advisor Tikanga Dame Naida Glavish. It is the work of great women such as them that keeps pushing Aotearoa up the list of the world’s most equal countries. But we should aim for the top.”

L-R: Auckland Hospital Foundation Director Candy Schroder, Co-Charge Midwife Rebecca Clark, supporter Theresa Gattung and Director of Midwifery Deborah Pittam

Auckland DHB Co-Charge Midwife Rebecca Clark said the team loves the new Women’s Health whānau room in the maternity ward: “It is a relaxing, comfortable and welcoming space for everyone to utilise. The space allows whānau to come together and celebrate their new pēpi and also gives new and expecting parents a space to socialise and meet other parents.”

Ms Schroder added: “Without our supporters, and especially the incredible gift from Desmond, these whānau room refurbishments simply wouldn’t be possible.

“Fundraising for this project has been challenging amid the global pandemic and we are so grateful to those who continue to help our hospital through this tough time.”

Read more of Desmond’s story on NZ Herald here.

Click here for a time-lapse video of the Women’s Health whānau room refurbishment, funded by Theresa Gattung.