Incredible gift of almost $1 million to help whānau

The teams at Auckland City Hospital are so grateful to have received a donation of more than $896,000 to complete our whānau rooms refurbishment project.

The extraordinary gift is the result of a bequest made by a former patient, Desmond Schollum, who was grateful for the hospital care he received before he passed away.

Whānau rooms are vital spaces in Auckland City Hospital. They allow friends and family to relax and reflect when supporting loved ones receiving treatment.

In 2019, Auckland City Hospital embarked on a mission to ensure the 40-plus whānau rooms throughout its wards are comfortable, calming spaces that meet the needs of all who use them.

Many of these rooms are uninviting and have lost the essence of their original purpose, but to get underway, the refurbishment project has relied on the generosity of hospital supporters who share the belief that these rooms should be improved. Desmond’s gift, left in his will, has helped make the hospital’s vision a reality.

A relative of Desmond’s, Dr Virginia Farnsworth-Grodd, said the Schollum family is happy these vital hospital spaces can be redeveloped thanks to his support.

“The impact of Desmond’s gift will be on-going and very helpful to other families, and it is comforting to know he is supporting family-centred care and involvement for patients,” said Dr Farnsworth-Grodd.

Desmond’s cousin Dame Claudia Orange said, “Des Schollum is a descendant of German speaking emigrants from around Pilsen (Czech Republic), who migrated in 1863 and 1874. They settled at Puhoi, north of Auckland, where local Māori provided their support with shelter and food when the emigrants first stepped onto the banks of the river at Puhoi. Over the years, Auckland City Hospital has been so helpful to Desmond’s family and we hope that his donation will inspire other families to contribute in the future.”

As Auckland City Hospital’s charity, the Auckland Health Foundation has been fundraising for the whānau rooms project since 2019, and this donation is the largest of its kind.

Auckland Health Foundation Director Candy Schroder said previous donations have already allowed for seven whānau rooms to be refurbished, but the goal has always been to raise the full $1.2 million required to complete the project.

“Mr Schollum’s gift will make a profound difference for so many families for years to come. Whānau rooms become a place for family to gather, take a breath and rest during challenging circumstances, as Paul’s family discovered.”

Paul Faa’lago spent 13 weeks in hospital following a lung transplant, and the whānau room at Auckland City Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit became a home away from home for his family.

Lung transplant recipient Paul Faa’lago with partner Tanya

Paul’s partner Tanya Walker said, “Having our family around was so important to Paul’s recovery. It was great everyone felt welcome to visit him, and great they could regroup in the waiting room when they couldn’t all be at Paul’s bedside, which was difficult when he was so sick. The more welcoming and comforting these spaces can be, the better for everyone.”

Leading New Zealand businesswoman and philanthropist Theresa Gattung funded the refurbishment of a Women’s Health whānau room last year. 

Ms Gattung said: “Auckland City Hospital was the first hospital to establish dedicated te ao Māori whānau spaces in 2003. They are especially important to Māori concepts of health and wellbeing. […] But over time the rooms had become rundown. They had lost their kaupapa and started to be used for other purposes.”

L-R: Auckland Health Foundation Director Candy Schroder, Co-Charge Midwife Rebecca Clark, supporter Theresa Gattung and Director of Midwifery Deborah Pittam

Speaking on behalf of the Women’s Health maternity ward, Auckland DHB Co-Charge Midwife Rebecca Clark said they all love their new whānau room: “It is a relaxing, comfortable and welcoming space for everyone to utilise. The space allows whānau to come together and celebrate their new pēpi and also gives new and expecting parents a space to socialise and meet other parents.”

Clinical Charge Midwife Charlie Baikie added, “The new whānau room has immensely improved the experience for our wāhine and their whānau.”

Ms Gattung was inspired by the women behind the whānau rooms project. “The project was initiated in 2018 by Auckland DHB Chief Nursing Officer Margaret Dotchin and advised by Chief Advisor Tikanga Dame Naida Glavish. It is the work of great women such as them that keeps pushing Aotearoa up the list of the world’s most equal countries. But we should aim for the top!”

Mrs Schroder said: “Without our supporters, and especially the incredible gift from Mr Schollum, these whānau room refurbishments simply wouldn’t be possible. Fundraising for this project has been challenging amid the global pandemic and we are so grateful to those who continue to help our hospital through this tough time.”

Click here for a time-lapse video of the Women’s Health whānau room refurbishment, funded by Theresa Gattung.