Posted on 11th July 2019
Tucked away on the fifth floor of Alma Street’s fairly unassuming Fremantle Hospital, there’s a dental clinic setting a new benchmark in public health services.
Working closely with Beatriz Perez from SPH Architecture + Interiors, Dental Health Services have achieved something quite extraordinary – a dental clinic that’s a pleasure to both treat and be treated in.
Having worked for DHS for more than 20 years, acting Head of Unit, Trang Quach, says she’s delighted to be in the new clinic.
“Fremantle General Dental Clinic moved from a building that was 22 years old,” she explains. “At our new clinic, I feel like I am working in a new, private dental clinic. Almost everything is new.
“It’s great to see a beautiful new clinic built for our patients and staff.”
According to Gino Cirillo, Manager of Community Dental Services, the new clinic fulfils the brief of being a warm and welcoming environment with a sense of freshness and wellbeing. “The design elements provide warmth to the clinic, which historically had been associated as being cold, clinical and institutional.”
Dental services for disadvantaged children in Fremantle began in 1936, when Fremantle City Councillor, Jack Gustafson, persuaded local dentists to provide a much-needed service on High Street, Fremantle. In 1952, the then Perth Dental Hospital Board assumed responsibility for the operations of the clinic under the chairmanship of Mr Gustafson to provide public dental care for people in need. In 1956, the clinic was subsequently moved to a site on the corner of Parry and Holdsworth Street.
The newly relocated Fremantle General Dental Clinic will provide vital general dental care to eligible patients aged 17 and over, and children under the age of four, who hold a Healthcare or Pensioner Concession Card. The new, purpose-built clinic is expected to receive more than 8,000 visits every year.
“The relocation of the Fremantle General Dental Clinic to new premises will ensure that DHS will be able to continue to deliver subsidised dental care to eligible patients in a modern setting, which maximises its surroundings to the benefit of all patients and staff.” Gino adds.
The new clinic boasts nine treatment rooms, a dental laboratory, sterilisation areas and staff support rooms, in order to offer patients dental examinations and assessments, radiographic examinations and interpretation, preventative and prophylactic services, periodontics, extractions and minor oral-surgery procedures, fillings and dentures.
In designing the new clinic, creating clean, light and bright treatment rooms was a priority. “This has been achieved with the use of white cabinetry with black edging along with white splashbacks, adding contrast through a timber-look vinyl flooring and a feature art wall/ceiling panel,” Gino says.
Created by local artist Peta Miller, each unique art panel enriches the treatment room and becomes a focal point for patients.
“Art was included in the project for two reasons: to integrate real art from a local artist into the fit-out as a way of integrating community into the project, and as a focal point for patients whilst they are undergoing dental treatment,” Gino explains.
SPH Architecture + Interiors identified the local artist, who kindly provided her artwork pro bono to be incorporated into the project due to the nature and location of the clinic.
In terms of functionality, the design of the surgeries was carefully undertaken to comply with modern infection prevention and control requirements, the integration of electronic hardware, and the maximisation of natural light. There are eight spacious surgeries with similar dimensions and an additional larger surgery designated as the “accessible” dental surgery with a larger entrance and width to accommodate patients with wheelchairs.
“It’s a quiet and more relaxing environment to work in,” Trang explains. “There is a lot of natural light with a nice view out of the large windows; some even have ocean views.
“We are lucky to have an accessible treatment room,” she continues. “It’s larger than the other surgeries, so access is easier for wheelchair-bound patients.
“We have computers in every room at this new facility, which allows us to do charting electronically. This is a step towards electronic patient record keeping, which will come in the future.”
As Head of Unit for nearly three years at the former Fremantle General Dental Clinic, Dr Kevin Minson has a unique perspective on the new facilities.
“Many of the functional areas of Parry Street were simply too cramped to do their intended job efficiently,” Kevin explains. “The new clinic addresses all of those issues and will allow the unit to operate at full capacity without problems and stress.
“The old staff room held about 60% of the total staff when the clinic was full, which ruled out proper staff meetings and ongoing staff training courses. The new clinic completely resolves this issue, as well as offering good AV aids.
“The clinic’s office at Parry Street was woefully inadequate for the requirements of a large 21st century government clinic. That has definitely been resolved at the new clinic. The laboratory is a similar story.
“Perhaps one of biggest issues was disabled access, which has now been addressed.”
Kevin describes the new clinic as open and airy, providing a pleasant working environment and resolving all the shortcomings of the previous location. “I believe the patient experience and staff morale will both benefit accordingly,” he concludes.
“The design, workflow, amenities of the new clinic are integral in making the clinic a pleasant place to work,” Gino says.
“Our patients think the new clinic is beautiful,” Trang adds. “They are very impressed.”
A standout feature of each treatment room in the new dental clinic is, without doubt, the artwork panels on the walls and ceilings.
Brilliantly, the artworks are the creation of local Fremantle artist Peta Miller, who provided the striking, evocative images for free.
“I was immediately drawn to the idea and met with [architect] Beatriz in my studio to discuss the project,” Peta says of the project’s inception.
“I was happy to donate the images as I understood the project had limited funding and would ultimately provide State-funded treatment fo people on pension concession cards or healthcare cards.”
Peta’s art was the natural choice for the Fremantle Dental Clinic, as her work is predominantly inspired by the Kimberley and Fremantle.
“The images are very Western Australian – they’re places that resonate with a lot of people,” Peta says.
“I like to simplify the composition with a strong emphasis on shape, tone and colour,” she adds. “I am trying to catch the essence or memory of a place rather than a photographic likeness.
“I am interested in what stays in your mind after coming home. It is not always the whole scene. Sometimes it’s just the white cockatoos against the blue of the sky, the shadow of the boab on the red earth or perhaps the play of negative and positive shapes of the cranes as they cut the Fremantle sky.”
The architects organised to photograph Peta’s artwork at a higher resolution in order to enlarge sections of the work and create feature panels over the dental chairs on the walls and ceiling, taking slices through paintings rather than reproducing whole pieces.
The inclusion of Peta’s artwork led to an edgy, modern look when combined with the other clean lines, colours and creative touches in the architects’ design and furnishings.
“I was delighted with the result,” Peta concludes.
You can follow Peta Miller Art on Facebook, or visit her studio at the Fibonnacci Centre, 19 Blinco Street, East Fremantle.