In his letter in the Oct. 23 issue, Dr. George Verrilli mistakenly casts the debate about the conversion of the rolling lawn of Northern Dutchess Hospital into a parking lot as a choice between “quality care” and “urbane comforts.” “No one walks on the lawn,” he says, implying that it’s useless–an easy sacrifice to corporate health care growth.
Too bad that Dr. Verrilli is not familiar with the growing body of research showing that a view of nature from a hospital room can significantly affect such variables as time spent in the hospital and the amount of pain medication required. Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in this field, summarizes his findings, and those of others, in his paper on “The Health Benefits of Gardens in Hospitals,” which was presented at the American Horticultural Therapy Association conference in 2002. The evidence from a number of different hospital studies treating a broad spectrum of patients (adults, children, elderly, outpatient, inpatient) strongly suggests that access to nature, even through a window, not only is objectively good for patients and staff, it also increases patient and family satisfaction with the hospital experience.
NDH is working hard to upgrade its facility and provide top-notch care to this community. Hospitals are stressful places, stressful for patients, for families, and for staff. Preserving the hospital’s existing green space has been incorrectly framed as an either/or decision, forcing a false choice between the rolling restorative lawn with its magnificent trees or upgraded hospital design. Yet, immunologist Esther Sternberg, in a public radio interview last month,) describes how contact with nature has become part of evidence-based hospital design and is now an important complement to state-of-the-art technological hospital design.
We already know this intuitively. Anyone who has walked into Target, Benedictine Hospital, or Stop & Shop knows that a highly visible asphalt expanse relieved by a few anemic trees does nothing to heal the body or the soul.
Northern Dutchess Hospital is unique, in part, because unlike other area hospitals it has preserved a beautiful, healthy, soothing setting. We need to keep it.