It has already been likened to a UFO: the new AZ Zeno hospital in Knokke is certainly a striking addition to the skyline of the elegant Belgian coastal resort. With its elegant sweeping curves it fits into the landscape and because the building is raised on pylons, it seems to hover in midair.
Bart Dewaele, director of care, is very proud of the new Zeno.
The reason to build a new hospital was very simple: the old building had become too small and outdated. We were faced with the choice between renovation or building a new Zeno. We chose for the latter option, with the express challenge to the architects to create a pearl. And they succeeded: the new Zeno is a pearl.
Does a brand new building with a futuristic appearance also come with futuristic care?
“Yes, most definitely”, Dewaele nods. “We have taken the opportunity to completely restructure our care approach. We want our medical and nursing staff to deliver a much more personal form of care. Friendly care is the keystone. Tailor-made for each and every patient. For most nurses this really isn’t as evident as it seems. They are trained to be efficient and provide adequate care in as little time as possible. We want to change that into a more patient-oriented way of care. After all: it’s not the patient’s choice to be ill. And we firmly believe that providing a healing, pleasant environment to patients has a positive effect on treatment.” Even the manner in which art is integrated into the architecture reflects the care philosophy of the AZ Zeno. Instead of exhibitions on the hospital’s walls, artworks of all kinds have been woven into the fabric of the building. Inspirational quotes, bright flowers, computer game-characters: all these images add to the healing environment the AZ Zeno intends to be.
The AZ Zeno hospital has 320 beds, of which 135 are in single rooms
“We have made an effort to give our rooms a homely feel, with lots of wood and natural materials and large windows. This fits in with our philosophy of creating a healing environment”, Dewaele explains. “Very literally, in fact. We have a large vegetable garden where we grow all kinds of fruits and vegetables, that we use in healthy and imaginative meals. As far as I know we are the first Belgian hospital that provides for its own food in this manner.”
Bart Dewaele, director of care:
We believe that providing a healing environment has a positive effect on treatment
“What is also an innovation where Belgium is concerned: all our single patient rooms have an extra bed in them, so someone can stay with a patient 24/7 if the medical condition of the patient allows for it. We even have a guest bedroom next door to the intensive care unit. We believe that having loved ones near has a positive effect on patient well-being. This person can offer help in care, but this is free of obligation and always in mutual consultation with the nurses. We even tried to equip our maternity ward with double beds, but sadly we were unable to realize that.”
All these innovations have seen patient satisfaction numbers increase
“We often hear patients and visitors say that they feel as if they are in a resort hotel instead of a hospital”, Dewaele points out. “And our staff is happy too, even though the new hospital is much larger and they have to cover much greater distances. But for that reason, we allow our night staff to use a cooter on their rounds.”
The daycare facilities at the AZ Zeno have also changed Dewaele:
“In the old situation, all daycare patients were treated in one big ward. Nowadays, we make a distinction between people who come in for a small surgical procedure and people for a medical investigation or chemotherapy.
Surgical patients follow a separate course in the hospital to lose as little time as possible. Of course, the focus here is also on friendly care. “Cancer patients require specific care, and do not feel comfortable being among other daycare patients. This is why the AZ Zeno has created a separate daycare ward for them. The people who come in for chemotherapy are treated in a separate ward, where they can be among other cancer patients. We have found that cancer patients really value contact with other people in the same situation. We also provide them with a range of extra services that are meant to enhance their comfort, such as facial massages and beauty treatments. So that the patients experience their daycare cancer treatment almost as a visit to a spa.” The future for the new AZ Zeno is exciting. “Working with the new Electronic Patient Dossiers will be a challenge, but I expect it will also provide greater opportunities for hospitals to work together. We are going to form a cluster with eight other hospitals in the Eeklo - Brugge – Oostende - Veurne area. That will take a few years to implement.”