More patients at Bright Vision Hospital can now enjoy free haircuts by volunteers, thanks to a donor-funded pop-up salon. 

Mr Mohamad Farook has always been neat and well groomed, but after a foot operation that required three weeks of rehabilitation at Bright Vision Hospital (BVH), his thick white hair was starting to grow out and curl. When a ward nurse asked the 80-year old if he would like a trim at the community hospital’s pop-up salon, he willingly agreed. 

“I didn’t realise they had this hair service! I’m very happy because my new hair cut looks good and I feel fresher and lighter,” says Mr Mohamad.

Every Tuesday morning, three hairdressers from a pool of around 20 volunteers spend a couple of hours snipping and trimming hair for up to 20 BVH patients, either at the pop-up salon or in the wards for frail patients who cannot be brought down.

 “I feel happy when I finish cutting a patient’s hair because the patient looks neater, cleaner and I’m sure they feel more comfortable too,” says Ms Susan Law, a volunteer hairdresser for 17 years.

This simple but meaningful programme started in 2002. For years it was held once a month in the community hospital’s Yen Pei Hall, but it always felt rushed as volunteers tried to trim as many patients’ hair as possible.

To improve the service, BVH ran an online fundraising campaign on in November 2018, to raise $6,150 to buy hair styling equipment for a pop-up salon. 

The community hospital bought mobile styling equipment with the funds raised so a pop-up salon could be set up in BVH’s Swing Garden, located at level 2, once a week then stored afterwards to free up the space for other purposes. A traditional barber swirling light was also installed to invoke nostalgia. 

“The patients like the new large mirrors because they can watch us while we work and we enjoy chit-chatting with patients because we are not so pressed for time now,” says Ms Law. 

A manicurist has also joined the weekly sessions, trimming patients’ fingernails and toenails next to the pop-up salon or in the wards.

“It can take up to one hour to cut a patient’s nails because the nails are often thick, hard and overgrown,” explains Ms Christina Oh Poh Geok, professional manicurist and volunteer at BVH. “Some of the patients have diabetes so I have to be very careful not to damage their skin as this could cause complications.”

Ms Oh trims nails for both male and female patients, but she does not use polish because doctors need to check the colour of patients’ nails.

The benefits of the programme are more than skin deep. Staff often see a difference in patients before and after their haircut and manicure, with many feeling refreshed and more motivated to do their therapy.

“Self-care and grooming can be difficult for our patients, particularly those who are frail or have dementia, but it is important to help them maintain a sense of self-worth and self-esteem,” says Samuel Lam Man Chung, Occupational Therapist, BVH. “Holistic care is central to community hospitals and this pop-up salon plays an important role in helping our patients heal and age gracefully.”

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