If you’ve ventured out to Collaroy on Sydney’s Northern Beaches over the last few months, you may have noticed a brand new hotel open its doors at the southern end of the beach. The exciting new precinct is Sargood on Collaroy, and though it may not look like it, it’s a hotel that is also a world first in medical innovation, specifically catering for people with spinal injuries, and accommodating their families too.
The $22 million development has been on the table for a while, having gone through council disputes and years of planning, fundraising and construction. Hunter and Bligh spoke to Jessica Allen, a northern beaches local and Program Manager at Sargood on Collaroy. With a distinguished career in Occupational Therapy, fuelled by a passion for the field of Spinal Cord Injury and treatment, the hotel was a perfect match for her.
“The origins of the hotel goes back to Frederick Sargood, who donated the land,” Jess explains.
“The land has a historical significance. It was used as a place to treat children in the years after the First World War, especially for illnesses like polio. The local council tried to reclaim the land twenty years ago for a redevelopment, however the community got behind it, fought it, and won. Not long after, the Sargood Foundation was established to raise funds for the hotel, and they employed Royal Rehab to run the facility.”
To Jess, there are many things that make Sargood on Collaroy a world first, not the least of which is the technology available to make their guest’s lives as easy as possible. The hotel comprises of seventeen self-contained apartments, each with state-of-the-art automation, discreet hoists, specialised equipment and trained guest attendants. Everything from lighting, air conditioning, to doors and blinds is automated. The hotel also has an accessible gym, with equipment purpose-built from Sweden with Bluetooth, which can be designed and tailored to the needs of its patrons. Not only that, but the hotel also has ‘beach buggies’ for trips to the beach, and Paragolfer chairs available at the local golf club to allow guests to have a round on the green.
“The architecture itself fits into the environment,” Jess explains.
“But beyond that, nowhere else can people [with spinal injuries] stay that has an environment like this. A lot of the design is focused around making everyday activities easier. The hotel is purpose built for individuals with spinal injuries. You can come to have a holiday, and not worry about anything. It also provides a space for family members to take a break.
“We also provides services and courses. If guests want to learn how to drive or surf, you sign up for a two week course, and we customise the program of each guest based on when they come, and what they want to do.”
While the facility has state-of-the-art care, Jess makes it clear that she wants to move the facility away from the typical medical clinic setting.
“Our patrons are guests, not patients. We’re a hotel,” she says.
The hotel has been extremely popular since its doors opened in February. In the first month, seventy-two guests checked in, which is a huge for a seventeen-apartment hotel.
Guests can stay for a maximum period of 28 days, and spinal patients have been making use of the many facilities available. For Jess, the hotel also works not just as a place where technology makes patients’ lives easier, but also functions as an trial space for new technology aimed at spinal treatment.
“We see ourselves as a permanent expo,” says Jess.
“When something new comes out, we become a place where it is trialled by the people who will use it. We actually have virtual reality technology that will be arriving here soon, which our guests will be able to use.”
And where does she see this technology going in the future? Is there a possibility we may eventually have technology that can fix spinal injuries?
“I don’t really have the answer. I know that a lot of time and energy is being put into spinal research. The least we can do is show our guests what can happen after spinal injuries. After coming here, many of our guests are simply blown away by what they can do, and that’s what we aim for.”
Sargood on Collaroy
02 8597 0600
1 Brissenden Ave, Collaroy NSW 209
Feature Image via Sargood on Collaroy/ Royal Rehab