By: Shannon Larson

Members of the Massachusetts Public Health Council approved an expansion plan proposed by Boston Children’s Hospital, allowing for the installment of a modernized building designed to provide improved service to patients, according to a Thursday statement from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The controversial expansion plans would build on top of Prouty Garden, an area recognized as being a refuge for patients, families and staff members, according to Gus Murby, a spokesperson for Save the Prouty Garden, the citizen group dedicated to preserving the garden.

In a statement released by Boston Children’s, President and CEO Sandra Fenwick outlined a variety of projects included in the expansion and addressed concerns about the garden.

“We … have a careful plan to carry on the spirit of the Prouty Garden, relocating plants, statuary and other natural materials to new green spaces and throughout our campus,” Fenwick said in the statement.

The statement highlighted the fact that the expansion plan incorporates more green space than the hospital currently has.

“Our proposal contains 25% more green and open space than we have currently, including indoor gardens that can provide sanctuary year round for even our sickest patients,” Fenwick said in the statement.

Murby, whose son was treated at Boston Children’s nearly a decade ago, said the garden was a valued resource for his family, but that the new proposed green spaces fail to meet the same healing standards.

“The issue is, that for a healing garden to be a healing garden, it should have certain qualities to it that virtually every one of the proposed alternatives green spaces that the hospital is proposing fall short on,” Murby said.

Murby said the garden offers is a space where patients can escape the lonely, isolating experience of their hospital room.

“The Prouty Garden is one place that patients … can literally get out of the building, get out of the prison, for a little bit of time at least, and relax in a garden that is big enough to feel like you’re actually not stuck in a hospital,” Murby said.

Although the Boston Children’s expansion plan was approved by Massachusetts health officials, Murby said Save the Prouty Garden plans to appeal the decision of the Public Health Council to the Massachusetts Health Facilities Appeals Board.

Deana Tavares, a former patient, volunteer and employee of Boston Children’s, said she relied on the garden for support while she was a patient. Tavares wrote in an email that she is heartbroken by the hospital’s decision to expand over the Prouty Garden.

“As a patient the garden was my freedom, my escape, the one place where I could forget for just a little while that I might have to undergo yet another painful procedure, or overhear a child’s heart monitor stop once and for all,” Tavares wrote.

Several Boston residents expressed concern about the expansion project.

Willa Young, 23, of Fenway said since hospitals can be uninviting environments, especially for children, she hopes Boston Children’s will try to recreate a space like the Prouty Garden for their patients.

“I think everybody has that feeling that hospitals can kind of be sterile and cold,” Young said. “I would hope that the hospital would try and find an alternative to that, a space where the kids can feel safe and warm and really have fun in such a bad environment.”

Ariel Lesnick, 24, of Allston, said she understands the importance the Prouty Garden may hold for those in the hospital.

“I’m someone who really benefits from time outside and taking advantage of nature,” Lesnick said. “It’s a big deal to have that space to breathe and not be trapped.”

Aviva Cormier, 29, of Allston, said she thinks Boston Children’s should seek an alternative route for expansion instead of forfeiting the garden.

“It’s unfortunate that they’re covering up a place that is a different kind of therapy for patients, something that they need,” Cormier said. “I would hope they would find a different way to expand.”

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