Smart designs keep healing process in mind

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In a February survey of 200 senior health care executives nationwide, 69 percent of the executives polled reported that their institution would most likely take on a major expansion project within the next three years. The survey was conducted by Bayer Consulting for Turner Construction Co., a subsidiary of a leading U.S. building contractor, The Turner Corp.

Robert Levine, vice-president of healthcare for Turner, said, in news release that “the construction of health care facilities is booming and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, for the first time since 1975, there has been an increase in the number of general acute-care beds across the nation.”

That is good news for Jonathan Bailey Associates, an international health care architectural firm hired by Memorial Hospital to design a main campus expansion and a new hospital. Jonathan Bailey Associates is an award-winning firm with offices in Dallas, Orlando, Honolulu, London, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. The company has designed major medical facilities throughout the world.

Dallas-based Tom Dwyer is the operations and hospital planner for Jonathan Bailey. He said that this is his firm’s first project with Memorial.

“Our firm follows the local building codes and the health care building guidelines, which are equivalent or above state standards, depending on the state,” Dwyer said. “We then study the demographics of the area and evaluate the needs with hospital managers and supervisors. From there, we put all of the information into an Excel-type spreadsheet of space.

“There are 33 or 34 groups of people we talk to, from doctors to staff to focus groups of patients and family members, including ambulance drivers and city police.”

Dwyer said efficiency factors and square footages compose the “Bible” of how to interact with the environment and the budget. “We look at the efficiency factors for nurses, the delivery efficiencies of products and the delivery efficiencies of patients,” Dwyer said. “When the cost to build is approximately $450 per square foot, we do not want to waste one square foot. If we can cut just one square foot, it translates to almost $500, so if 10,000 square feet can be saved, lots of project costs are removed.”

A clover-leaf-designed nurses’ station at Memorial will save nurses from walking long distances. The design calls for 80 feet of space from the nurses’ station to the farthest room, which saves square footage and time, Dwyer said. It also is important to create design flexibility to adapt to changes that might happen 20 years down the road. Dwyer said windows that allow for natural light, ceiling heights and overall aesthetics are equally considered. “The design has to be sensitive to the healing process,” Dwyer said.

That sensitivity and a focus on health care facility design topped the reasons Memorial chose Jonathan Bailey Associates over a multitude of architects to design the main campus expansion and the new hospital, said Cherie Gorby, senior administrator of patient care. “This firm designs around the patient and the caregivers, and they understood things like the average age of the nurse – they think outside of the box,” she said. “They told us our nurses would never have to walk farther than a Suburban to get something.”

To enhance the efficiency factor, supplies will be available in each hospital room so caregivers have everything at hand, Gorby said. The plans also allow patients to be in constant view of their caregivers.

“Eighteen years ago, when the Springs’ population was about 250,000, we had Eisenhower, Memorial, Penrose, Penrose Community and St. Francis hospitals,” Gorby said. “Our population has doubled, and we’ve gone from five hospitals to two systems – Penrose, Penrose Community and Memorial.”

Memorial houses the busiest emergency room in the state, so plans to double its space to 40,000 square feet are overdue. The emergency-room design includes a separate area for pediatrics, where children will not have to mingle with injured or ill adults, Gorby said.

The main campus’ 250,000-square-foot expansion includes a 107-bed children’s hospital and a women’s and maternity services ward.

Memorial is accredited by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions as a children’s hospital within a hospital. The children’s hospital includes a neo-natal intensive care unit, with 120-square feet of space designed around each bed, making it roomier for visitors. The premature babies will experience their first days on the outside in an environment designed to emulate the womb. “Their neurological systems are immature, and we have to minimize noise and do everything to protect them,” Gorby said. A Ronald McDonald House is planned inside the main campus’s women and children’s area. Even though there already is a Ronald McDonald House near the hospital, Gorby said parents with critically ill children do not want to venture across the street.

The focus groups that Dwyer discussed included 10 children who are former Memorial patients.

The campus expansion is scheduled for completion in late 2006.

Also scheduled for completion in 2006 is Memorial Hospital North, an 84-bed facility offering a full range of diagnostic and treatment services, located at the intersection of Powers Boulevard, Union Boulevard and Briargate Parkway. A nearby 150,000 square-foot medical offices facility is in the works as well.

Today, patients’ expectations of hospitals are the same as hotels, Gorby said. “Our new hospital is designed with private rooms only,” Gorby said. “People don’t want to be in a room with someone else when they are sick. It’s no longer about cold, white walls – we want a healing environment, with healing colors, sounds and light.”

Dozens of people were involved in creating a design that was best for patients, staff and the community’s interests, Dwyer said, “I’ve been in this business for 35 years, and we always want the community to get the best and most efficient design for every penny spent.”