Merlin Park Hospital is encouraging staff to look after more than just humans with their new herb and vegetable garden.
The lunchtime gardening classes on the hospital campus are a Healthy Ireland Gardening Initiative to encourage staff to relax, socialise, and look after their physical and mental well being.
Margaret O’Toole, Business Manager at Merlin Park who came up with the idea, explains:
“The lunchtime gardening class brings staff together and gives them an opportunity to get to know one another and build friendships. Engaging with nature is good for the mind and body and plants give us a sense of connection.”
When she suggested it, Margaret says, the idea got nothing but positive feedback from other members of the staff, and they were well served by having expert knowledge on hand.
“Sean Fergus who is the horticulturist in Merlin Park came on board with us and provided the expertise needed to educate staff in all areas of gardening. To-date staff have planted a variety of vegetables and herbs.”
Anne Larkin, a staff member at Merlin Park who takes part in the classes loves them, “This class gives me something a little more creative and interesting to do at lunchtime which I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to.”
The Healthy Ireland Initiative was launched in 2013 over fears that our current lifestyle trends, exacerbated by inequality, will lead to a dangerously unhealthy future.
Not to mention an unaffordable one, as unhealthy living will rack up the healthcare costs in the long term.
Saolta was the first hospital group in Ireland to create a Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan in in 2014 to support the health and well being of staff an patients.
Since then Saolta has encouraged physical and mental well being through initiatives such as the Galway Unversity Hospitals Arts Trust, a staff choir choir at each hospital, and encouraging people to eat better among many others.
Of course any plan on promoting a healthier lifestyle also continues to tack issues that have long been of great concern to the health services such as smoking, drinking, and drug use.