Healthcare / Pharmaceuticals

A boost to health

by Alison Jenner

Lynne Fung, general manager, communications, project development
Matilda International Hospital
Photo: Edde Ngan

Medical professionals work in a highly stressful industry which can impact heavily on the individual

In addition to shift work and long hours that are known risk factors for ill health, there is an enormous amount of occupational stress related to the nature of the work in the medical profession.

"This is exactly why medical staff need a holistic well-being programme," says Lynne Fung, general manager, communications, project development, Matilda International Hospital.

Matilda will hold its own version of the Olympics at the premises with the second instalment of their annual sports day at the end of this month.

Modelled after the international sport event —a lbeit with a unique twist —M atilda's Olympic-themed sports day promises to be a fun-filled one with competitions like rowing, archery and dressage. "It's serious fun rather than serious sports," promises Mrs Fung. "The dressage will involve a mop and our rowing boats will be made of cardboard. People are going to get very wet," she says.

Fun aside, the rationale behind the sports day —w hich is the culmination of a four-phase staff health month —i s no laughing matter.

Health advocate

Recognising that there is much to gain in terms of overall staff morale, improved performance and productivity and retention of personnel by investing in their staff's health, Matilda has in place a structured wellness programme that supports early intervention, education, enabling and evaluation.

While many hospitals offer a number of wellness services like vaccinations, insurance and health talks for their employees at the early intervention and education stage, Matilda takes it a step further. The hospital enables its 180 employees to stay healthy by providing the resources and facilities like a tennis court, swimming pool and gym. Fitness classes, yoga and taekwondo are conducted every week during lunch hour.

"We don't just say 'you should exercise'," explains Mrs Fung. "We say 'here's the teacher, here's the lunchtime, here's the venue. All you need to do is to turn up'."This results in a sustainable level of staff retention. "It's very hard not to be happy working in an environment like this," Mrs Fung remarks. "There aren't many staff who don't have smiles on their faces."

Olympic spirit

On a sunny afternoon in October last year, almost half of Matilda's employees filed out of the hospital's 100-year-old colonial building and into the tennis court for their first sports day.

Dressed up at some points with masks and goggles or tyres around their waists, the staff became instant entertainers for patient-turned-spectators who had rooms with a view of the carnival-like atmosphere. "Many of them took a great deal of humour, looking over the side at what we were doing," says Mrs Fung.

Wit, swiftness and fitness were proven in activities like "limbo", "egg and spoon" and sack races while others like the three-legged race encouraged teamwork.

This year's sports day is expected to be equally fun, with a keener health focus resulting from a four-phase health programme throughout October. The first phase of the programme, dubbed the fitness week, commenced last Monday and saw staff partake in activities like taekwondo, yoga and HPV vaccinations. These will be followed by a series of workplace well-being lectures on footcare, prevention of occupational injury and general well-being, among others. The third phase, holistic well-being, which starts on the third week, will include alternative classes like aromatherapy and acupuncture.

After these three weeks of sport activities and health talks, staff can enjoy foot and shoulder massages and indulge in an ice-cream day. Then comes the Matilda Olympiad.

"The sports day is really a way for staff to put all that they've learnt into practice," says Mrs Fung. "The aim is to improve overall wellness while providing healthy competition to stimulate people."

Held at the end of this month, the sports day will begin with a torch relay around the hospital with the final destination at the tennis court. Competitive events such as Matilda's version of horse riding, cycling, hurdles and volleyball, will be fashioned in a similarly entertaining way to last year's.

Instead of medals, employees who gain the most points from all activities will be awarded with prizes like a spa detox treatment at a leading hotel and a complimentary one-year gym membership at the hospital.


Taken from Career Times 10 October 2008, p. B2
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