NUH makes room for sick kids' parents

The Ronald McDonald Family Room is equipped with free Wi-Fi, recliners, microwave ovens and shower facilities, and is located steps away from the hospital’s paediatric ICU and high-dependency ward. ST PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN

At the National University Hospital (NUH), parents now have an extra room where they can get some rest but still stay close to their critically ill children.

The new Ronald McDonald Family Room was set up after more than 130 families were turned away from the existing four-bedroom Ronald McDonald House over the past three years due to lack of space.

Together, both facilities can accommodate around 30 people.

About the size of a one-room Housing Board flat, the new room is equipped with recliners, microwave ovens and shower facilities. It cost around $135,000.

It also has towels, snacks and free Wi-Fi, and is located steps away from the hospital's paediatric intensive care unit (ICU) and high-dependency ward.

Parents access the room using a fingerprint scanner and are allowed to stay overnight for as long as their children are hospitalised there.

The new facility is fully funded by the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC). Ms Noor Karmilah Sauji, 43, is someone who can fully appreciate this.

She has stayed in both the Ronald McDonald Family Room and House for the past two months while tending to her 16-year-old daughter, who has a brain infection.

"I get to spend more time with my daughter this way," she said, adding that the commute from her home would take her more than an hour otherwise. "I also save money and travelling time."

Ms Pamela Tor Das, who is president of RMHC Singapore, said: "It is not uncommon to see many parents keeping vigil by their children's bedside, with some spending many sleepless nights in hospital.

"This is why we opened the Ronald McDonald Family Room - to offer these families who face great stress and anxiety a place to rest and recuperate, while being close to their loved ones."

Associate Professor Daniel Goh, who is head of NUH's paediatric cluster, said that the new family room was set up in tandem with the expansion of the paediatric ICU and high-dependency ward.

In the past year, the ward has increased its capacity from 11 to 18 beds. This can be further increased to 25 beds in the event of a crisis, such as a flu pandemic or mass casualty incident.

Having the family room nearby, said Prof Goh, helps ease the burden on family members and gives them a place for a much-needed respite.

"I've been on the other end myself as a caregiver for my mother when she was in hospital for an extended period," he recalled.

"It was one of the most trying periods I can ever recall."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline NUH makes room for sick kids' parents. Subscribe