Length of stay: Five weeks.
Expected date of discharge: July 2023.
But this isn’t your average patient needing medical care. This is a family of ducks who have chosen to make the Queen’s Centre, at Castle Hill Hospital, their home.
Mother duck and her offspring were first spotted around five weeks ago in an enclosed courtyard next to Physiotherapy.
Staff were quick to seek professional advice from animal charities on what to do with the female Mallard and her brood. The need was particularly urgent as Mum had a habit of disappearing every so often, leaving the tiny ducklings alone and potentially vulnerable to aerial predators.
But when staff were advised not to move them, they were quick to take the young family under their wing.
Staff took to facebook to ask for help in sourcing a paddling pool to provide the ducks with a regular source of water. Another member of staff’s husband adjusted a rabbit hutch to offer cover and shelter, and various team members donated food such as seeds and insects to ensure the eight young ducklings were well fed.
In fact, the ducklings have created somewhat of a buzz at the Queen’s Centre, with staff coming in on evenings, weekends, and even on annual leave to care for them and provide fresh water for bathing and swimming.
What’s more, the courtyard in which they’ve taken up residence is overlooked by two of the hospital’s oncology wards, Wards 30 and 31, meaning patients spending time in hospital for cancer treatment have had the pleasure of watching the ducklings grow and flourish.
Dr Mansoori, a specialty doctor in oncology based at the Queen’s Centre, has earned himself the nickname ‘Dr Dolittle’, after making it his mission to give the family its best chance of survival.
“There were some concerns initially about keeping the ducklings here, but we sought expert advice and rather than rehoming them, we were advised how best to care for them for the relatively short time they’d be with us.
“Staff across the wards, administration and physiotherapy have all pulled together to feed them, watch over them and give them the best possible chance in life, and many of our patients have been keeping a watchful eye on them too. Some patients have even said that being able to watch the babies go about their daily routine has made their stay in hospital much more enjoyable.
“We’ve resisted naming them in case we become too attached. Mum is already teaching the little ones how to hop and flap their wings, so it won’t be long now before they’re able to fly.
“It’s been a real pleasure to look after them and who knows, one of them may consider the care to have been that good that they come back one day and nest here again.”
According to the RSPB, Mallard ducklings take between 50 and 60 days to fledge, meaning staff and patients can expect to enjoy their company for just another two or three weeks before they finally fly the nest for good.