by Jerry Ong

No this is not about the sequel to 300, the movie adaption of the epic novel by Frank Miller[1] . It is really about 8 x 100 species of plants, birds, butterflies and the new Khoo Teck Puat Hospital or KTPH in Yishun. That is right. I am writing about the birds, the bees and the butterflies.

To start, one must know a bit more of the history and culture of Alexandra Hospital, the ‘predecessor’ for KTPH. AH is an organization that aspires to adopt the best practices in both environmental protection and water conservation. The management’s leadership and enthusiasm of its employees in environmental conservation is manifested most evidently in their gardens.

AH draws taxi drivers, photographers and even tourists, not there to see its doctors but the hospital’s green wonderland. From an ordinary garden with a sprinkling of shrubs and trees, Ms Rosalind Tan or better known as Madame Butterfly has in the last eight years transformed the 12 ha of land into an award winning garden paradise with the help of numerous volunteers. The garden boasts medicinal plants, fruit trees and plants to attract birds and butterflies to the garden. As of now, it now hosts over 500 plants, 60 bird species and over 100 butterfly species.

The idea of creating a healing environment to aid patient recovery is backed by evidence based studies. By looking at trees and plants, one can reduce stress level, ease muscle tension and lower blood pressure. It has been shown to help patients to de-stress and speed up their healing process.

With KTPH fully operational by the third quarter of this year, the existing premises of AH will be handed over to the Jurong General Hospital team who will use it as an ‘interim hospital’. With the impending move, the management for KTPH has since set a new target: 100 species of butterflies, birds, fishes, flowering plants, fruit trees, native trees, edible plants and fragrant plants. Yes, all 800 of them.

This is an ‘extension’ of the run-away success of the butterfly trail in AH, to bring along a slice of history or memory of the old premises. More significantly, it is about creating a sense of place and crafting new memories. Imagine when you can tell the patient that the salad on his plate is grown in one of the many vegetable plots on the roof of the clinic block opposite the ward he is in or that the banana used in the banana cake was grown on the tree right outside the ward. This crafting of memorable spaces and experiences is part of the hospital’s Placemaking process.

To quote KTPH CEO Mr Liak on his idea of having a durian tree on the 10th storey of the hospital during a recent tree planting ceremony, “we will set out to achieve what others think are impossible”. I can almost hear him shouting, “We are Sparta!” But certainly, he has succeeded in catching everyone’s attention and imagination.♦

[1] For the uninitiated, 300 is a ferocious retelling of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army. Facing insurmountable odds, their valor and sacrifice inspire all of Greece to unite.

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