South Australia’s first holiday home for children with complex medical needs opens

South Australia’s first purpose-built holiday home for families with children with complex medical needs or in palliative care has opened its doors welcoming the first family to stay at the Victor Harbor property.

The Women’s & Children’s Hospital (WCH) Foundation Beach House is specifically designed, constructed and medically equipped to meet the needs of some of the Hospital’s sickest children.

WCH Foundation Acting CEO Corinne Habel said there is an overwhelming sense of emotion seeing the Halfpenny family in the home.

“The Foundation and the Hospital shared a vision of creating a very special place where families, like the Halfpennys, could spend treasured time together,” she said.

“Now the Beach House is open it will have a lasting impact on the families who stay for years to come.

“This project would not have been possible without the South Australian community who have donated so generously, especially Bella Build & Design our official build partner.

“It means the world to these families that the community care about them. It is truly heart-warming to see the dedication and kindness.”

The Beach House program will be run by the Foundation in consultation with the Hospital. The families’ stays will be fully funded by the Foundation.

Sara Fleming, WCH Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner (Clinical Lead), has worked in the Palliative Care Service for 20 years. The Service cares for about 50 children and their families every year.

“About 10 years ago I identified that a property of this type was needed in South Australia when I realised how hard it was for these families to holiday,” Ms Fleming said.

“While they are often offered flash holidays, the stress of getting on a plane, the need to take so much equipment, coupled with the fear of being a distance away from their child’s health care team, deterred the family. However, they still desired to holiday, especially as they had the sense that this may be their last together.”

Ms Habel said on hearing about the need for the Beach House the WCH Foundation took on the project.

“In the process of designing the House, the Foundation and Sara met with a group of families, whose children have been cared for by the Palliative Care Service. The families shared with us what their perfect holiday home would look like and throughout the design and build process we have kept their wishes and insights front of mind,” she said.

“What has been created is a home that is truly accessible for the families, while being aesthetically beautiful and not feeling like a medical facility

“It is so wonderful that it can sleep up to 12 people allowing the child and their parents, siblings and extended family to stay. Along with the children missing out on holidaying, their family also miss out on this special time. Now it is possible at the Beach House.”

Ms Fleming said the chance to escape normal surroundings and holiday together has many benefits for the child and their family.

“A lot of older children with serious medical conditions feel like they are a burden. The opportunity for the family to go to the Beach House means the child will see that from their diagnosis and journey good things can come. This has great benefits for the child, in fact the whole family.

“Following in the concept of holism if people are happy, relaxed, feel valued and safe, the wellness and the chance for the family to bond is increased.”

The Halfpenny family is the first to stay at the Beach House. Wayne and Emma’s daughter Jessika, 9, has Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare genetic blistering skin disease, and Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy.

Mrs Halfpenny said organising and packing the medical equipment and supplies needed when going on a holiday is a lot of hard work.

“Unfortunately, quite often it is not worth the stress,” she said.

“Staying at the Beach House where all the equipment and supplies are already there is so very helpful and reassuring. The chance to get away from our home and spend time outside of Hospital, will give us a chance to relax and rewind.”

About the Beach House and program
• The Beach House is located on the waterfront at Encounter Lakes, Victor Harbor, at 20 Central Drive.
• The Beach House program will be run by the Foundation in consultation with the Hospital. Applications to stay at the Beach House are welcomed from families with children currently under the care of the WCH’s Palliative Care or Complex Care Services.
• It is medically equipped for children (newborn to teenagers) in palliative care and/ or with complex medical needs.
• The official opening of the Beach House is July 20, with the community open day on July 21.
• Official build partner | Bella Build & Design
• Architect | Greenway Architects
• Landscaper | Coastal Landscapes & Fencing
• To donate to the ongoing Beach House program visit, wchfoundation.org.au/beachhouse

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