The Prince of Wales has visited a new operating theatre built in record time to help clear the backlog of patients needing surgery after the coronavirus pandemic.
Charles toured the Derwent building, a hip and knee operations facility at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital, which was turned into a palliative care unit during the pandemic.
Its new theatre was set up in just two months.
The prince met staff who went above and beyond during the first phase of the pandemic, including staying away from home for months to protect their families from Covid-19.
He also spoke to Michell Flores, who was a patient in intensive care but returned to work in the stroke unit when he recovered.
Charles then cut the ribbon on the hospital’s new Lavender Garden – a project funded by staff and donations to commemorate colleagues lost to Covid-19.
It was initially intended to commemorate two staff members who died with cancer in 2020, but it is now devoted to all employees who have died over the past two years.
The garden is in an outdoor quadrangle and is intended to give staff a place to relax during difficult shifts and reflect on the difficulties of the past two years, a spokesman for the hospital said.
Anna Gryga, who worked in hospital administration, was one of the two people the garden was first designed for.
Her son Parys, 16, told the PA news agency: “She was an amazing woman, that’s the only thing I can describe her, a joy for everyone, a really reliable person.
“Lavender was her favourite flower, it has such a calming smell, that’s why it is a lavender garden.”
Parys spoke to the prince for several minutes during his visit.
Donna Bailey, surgical first assistant and a close friend of Ms Gryga, said: “Just before Anna died, I gave her a bunch of lavender from my garden, and that’s where the idea for this special space came from.
“This has since grown into a garden for all staff so we can have a peaceful place to decompress during difficult shifts, to recharge after a long day inside, and to reflect on those we have lost.
“It’s been wonderful to see the garden celebrated by the Prince of Wales, and for the relatives and generous donors to come together on this very special day.”
Charles also posed for a photo with a group of nurses, and waved to crowds of people gathered at the windows overlooking the new outdoor space.
He said to one nurse “I don’t know how you do it”, when she told him of the long hours they worked during the pandemic.
Louise Pennington, lead palliative care nurse, said: “I’m unbelievably proud of all our teams and for all they did during the pandemic to ensure compassionate and safe visiting for patients at the end of their lives.
“We pulled together to focus on what matters most to our patients and having His Royal Highness here is great recognition of all we’ve been through.”
So far, 2,240 homes have been built on the site, which is designed to boost the quality of life for those who live there, with a focus on people rather than prioritising traffic.
Charles met people involved in designing and building a new play area for children.
Also present were Cabinet ministers Jacob Rees-Mogg and Michael Gove.