As the finishing touches go on the upcoming Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Redwood City, the new seven-story structure is a sharp contrast to the existing hospital a stone’s throw away.
Seismic upgrades. A healing garden. Labor and delivery spaces that could be mistaken for a hotel room. A long row of color-coded emergency department rooms. Natural light everywhere. Wider hallways and taller ceilings to accommodate modern equipment. Computer-controlled blinds on the walls of glass that adjust automatically based on the sun. Technology allowing patients to watch videos, check on progress, surf the Internet and even order their meals from their in-room TV screens. Pull-out sofa beds for overnight visits by family members. A meditation room — chapel is no longer the preferred term — where prayer rugs and books will await users in a wooden and hanging bulb atmosphere.
“This is going to be so different,” said Janet Hunter, a longtime nurse and leader of the transitional team from the old to new hospital.
On a recent tour, protective paper remained taped to the floor and handwritten signs pointed out where the operating rooms were. Construction crews in hard hats finished installing benches, plastic wrap protected some large monitors while others remained in their boxes, packages of door brackets sat atop medical beds and wires hung from sections of the acoustic ceiling. But sun poured through glass art panels, the wooden flooring in rooms shined and lockers in the spacious nurse break area looked ready for move-in.
Hunter knows exactly how many days are left until the doors officially open — 112 — on the 280,000-square-foot hospital in which nearly all 149 patient rooms are private. She and other Kaiser Permanente officials also know what is left to be done: tours and training of staff, moving in the final furniture and equipment, double checking that the signs actually point visitors where they want to go and troubleshooting scenarios. Only then, in one full day, will patients move from the existing hospital into the new space.
Like other Peninsula hospitals, Kaiser Permanente’s rebuild is required by state seismic safety standards that have prompted renovations and new construction throughout California. For Kaiser, the mandate was also a chance to create a 21st-century building to match its state-of-the-art medicine.
Unlike the 1960s-era existing tower which sits across the outside healing garden, the new hospital varies in height from seven stories, down to six along Veterans Boulevard and two at the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Walnut Street where the new emergency department is located. Within the decade, plans call for building a new medical office building and demolition of the old hospital, said Frank Beirne, senior vice president and area manager.
Kaiser is aiming for LEED silver certification through use of low-flow toilets, infrared faucets and drought-resistant landscaping. Beirne said Kaiser prefers not to talk price tags of its hospital construction until after all the bills are in but said the Redwood City project was priced along with facilities in Hayward and San Leandro which allowed economies of scale.
The new hospital took about 15 years of planning before breaking ground in August 2011, roughly a year before several other construction projects sprung up around downtown Redwood City, too. While there are similarities to other Kaiser facilities such as colors and extra security measures, the location’s own logistics led to some differences. For example, the emergency room, which sees about 26,000 annual visits, is not a more typical triangular pattern but a long hallway of facing rooms. Inside each, the outlets and equipment are standardized to help prevent error. The color-coding of the room lets staff immediately easily identify which segment may be shut down at any given point. All the efficiencies may also make the patient experience smoother and quicker.
The new hospital is about 80,000 square feet larger than its predecessor although Beirne said “it’s more about usable space versus gross footage.”
That space is evident in the pre- and post-operating bays, the cardiac catheterization labs and the six operating rooms that can comfortably accommodate the seven to 10 medical staff needed for typical procedures. Hunter and Physician-in-Chief Dr. Jim O’Donnell pointed out one way these rooms are different than their outdated counterparts — the equipment hangs from the ceiling rather jutting up from the floor which makes them easier to manipulate and less of a tripping hazard.
Each patient room floor is laid out like a race track circling the nurses’ stations and each floor also includes a negative pressure room to contain infections. Windows on one side face the Bay; the others get a city view. The labor and delivery rooms immediately over the roof of the building’s lower step are carefully frosted.
A key goal of the new hospital is a focus on family, from the in-room accommodations like sofa beds, to technology that lets them track where a patient has been moved for tests in case they arrive to find their loved one’s bed empty. Privacy is another client desire which explains the shift away from multi-patient rooms to single occupancy.
Visitors will navigate the hospital through traditional signs but also interactive wall screens and eventually a smartphone app using a QR barcode reader.
O’Donnell said the bells and whistles of the new facility are beyond what he ever imagined in his early days of medicine but he and the others emphasized that the technology doesn’t change Kaiser’s service delivery. It simply elevates it, he said.
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