The Gazette - What's Next for the Montreal Neuro?


What's next for the Montreal Neuro? by Peggy Curran

A healing garden, a cafeteria as good as the city's best museum bistro, perhaps a lounge with interactive games that both distract and engage the minds of patients and their loved ones.

Where the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital will spend its second 75 years has yet to be decided. That hasn't stopped director David Colman from giving a fair bit of thought to what it will be.

Throughout the prolonged, painful birthing of the McGill University Health Centre, clinicians and researchers at the Neuro have been adamant about staying together. "It would be like taking away all the vital organs. They are inseparable," said Colman. He contends all the key players -from MUHC director Arthur Porter and McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum right up to Premier Jean Charest -agree that the two elements belong together.

What they haven't figured out is whether that will be at the new Glen site, downtown or somewhere else. "We should have answers in the next three or four months," said Porter. "It seemed better to move ahead than wait any longer for that to be resolved." Until someone comes up with a better idea, Colman said the Neuro will stay where it is atop University St. "The question is where is the best situation for us over the next 75 years."

In an effort to figure that out, the Neuro will invite a leading architect to deliver the annual Penfield lecture this fall, then host a day long forum where health care designers will toss ideas about what the neurological hospital of the new century should be. "As we get older and live longer, more of us will get neurological diseases such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis," Colman predicts. "From time to time, we'll have to come back to the hospital for a few days to get our medications retooled and re-tweaked." Catering to such repeat customers means creating an atmosphere that is warm and welcoming, "so patients don't dread coming back to the hospital."

For Colman, that could mean interactive features which make the hospital a cool place to spend time, a garden where patients could sit when they aren't undergoing treatment and a terrific cafeteria. "Maybe even have a glass of wine or a beer. Why not? What are you saving it for?"

At the Neuro, where researchers are already melding brain nerve cells with microchips to repair damaged spinal cords, Colman said "the future is not planned, it is invented."

"We will invent our future and plan where we are going to be."

Unlike Porter, Colman is not sold on the necessity of the single-patient room.

"There can be a benefit to having a roommate who is undergoing similar treatment."

Even better, Colman said, if the person you share with has good stories, recalling his own stint in the hospital last year.

"My roommate had been in the Luftwaffe and then went on to design jet planes. We were in the hospital at the time when the pilot landed his jet in the Hudson River and my roommate was able to explain how he did it. That was pretty interesting for me, an experience I wouldn't have had if I had been in a room by myself."

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