TOOWOOMBA Hospital has had an injection of valuable new equipment over the past month which will help cardiac and dementia patients.
The most unusual acquisition is three fluffy robotic harp seal pups, thanks to funds raised during Toowoomba's Christmas Wonderland.
The seals, each valued at $7850, have been used worldwide and were first trialled in Australia in 2014.
They have been proven to improve the emotional state of dementia patients, reduce challenging behaviours and feelings of loneliness and stress, and improve social interactions between patients and caregivers.
In some cases, patients who had not communicated for months or even years began to do so again.
The seals make eye contact, remember faces, respond to their name, and to touch and petting by moving their tail and opening and closing their eyes, and provide similar benefits to patients as therapy animals, without the complications of having real animals on site.
But why seals? Apparently, the inventor did trial the more expected shapes of dogs and cats, but found patients compared the robot to their memories and ideas of real pets and were disappointed.
Approximately 425,416 Australians are currently living with dementia, with another 250 joining that number every day, so providing patients comfort and relief from stress without having to resort to costly ongoing medication and its potential side effects has to be good.
And to date, Toowoomba Hospital reports a very positive response from patients.
Slightly less out-of-the-box, but no less valuable, has been the provision of $5000 worth of new gym equipment specifically for the rehabilitation of cardiac patients, thanks to the Toowoomba Hospital Foundation.
The equipment includes a treadmill, rowing machine and balance trainer, and Toowoomba Hospital Foundation CEO Alison Kennedy thanked the community for their support.
"Recovering from any type of illness can be extremely difficult and overwhelming and being able to provide support to our patients through the provision of equipment and resources to help them get back on their feet is an absolute privilege for the Foundation," she said.