Hospital courtyard transformed by Makeover

Hospital courtyard transformed by Makeover

Wheelchair-accessible gift to Jo Brant a quiet place for patients, family, staff

Burlington Post
By Tim Whitnell - Oct 01, 2006

Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital's new courtyard, but 12 days is all it took for the latter to undergo an extreme makeover that will encourage people to roam among its new features. A throng of onlookers, comprised of hospital staff, patients, corporate sponsors, media and at least one curious citizen, descended on the southwest corner of the hospital's property last Monday afternoon to acknowledge an outdoor construction project that has transformed a portion of Jo Brant's land from drab to dazzling. Following a dozen long, intense days of ripping up grass and literally building from the ground up the hospital has a new area for patients, family members, visitors and staff to meet and relax.

Construction involved laying down underground support structures, new grass, assembling paving stone walkways, two rock water fountains, a covered pavilion, sitting areas and even incorporating artwork and nighttime lights in the yard's tall walnut trees. The courtyard revitalization, a $400,000 gift to JBMH by various corporate sponsors and volunteers, was a joint project of Green Force, Tricon Films & Television, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) and the Seferian Design Group Limited. About 100 first and second-year Humber College landscape, arbour and horticulture program students also took part in the project with at least 50 on site each day, helping move things and learning about designing and problem solving. HGTV videotaped the project with the intent to produce a 30-minute TV show that will broadcast the process and finished product next spring. A senior hospital manager was awestruck by the change to the land. "It's just absolutely amazing how they transformed this area. The best part of it is it will be accessible to people in wheelchairs," said Ebbe Marquardsen, vice-president of development and community relations.

An elderly citizen shuttling back and forth on a motorized scooter illustrated that getting around the renovated area would be much easier than before for people with mobility issues. "As a patient back in the mid-1980s, at my insistence I wanted to come out into the courtyard. It was an area of some mature trees (back then) but needing some attention and something visual and accessible," said Cliff Goodall. He said he came down to the courtyard site four or five times during the makeover to watch it develop. "I talked to a number of Humber students and they said, 'It sure beats the hell out of the classroom.'"

The 79-year-old Goodall -- who made a miraculous recovery from a skiing accident and a subsequent operation that left him a temporary quadriplegic -- knows about the need for accessibility in public places. He was chairman of the city's accessibility advisory committee for eight years. He was also invited to be a member of the advisory group that convened last spring to discuss plans for the courtyard. "I think it's accessible and I think that meditating area, that is the place where so much recovery takes place," said the former chairman of the Stroke Recovery Association of Ontario, referring to an ornate wooden garden shed that serves as a partial windbreak from the blustery winds that whip inland off Lake Ontario. The shed is surrounded by a series of gardens, one of which is patterned after a garden that local resident Bebe Liptrot had on her property. Liptrot was a regular cancer patient at Jo Brant for several years before dying in September 2003.