Palomar Health invites public to tour ‘hospital of the future’ on Saturday
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
Around 10,000 North County residents are expected to get their first inside look at the new Palomar Medical Center this Saturday.
The free preview, set for 4 to 9 p.m. July 28, will include self-guided tours, technology demonstrations, free refreshments, free health screenings, children’s activities and exhibits to celebrate the completion of the region’s “Hospital of the Future,” as Palomar Health officials have dubbed the 11-story, 740,000-square-foot, 288-patient bed facility.
The hospital is at 2185 W. Citracado Parkway in Escondido. On-site event parking will be limited to disabled guests. Free off-site parking and shuttle will be available. For locations, go to www.PalomarHealth.org/opening.
“This is our grand celebration,” said Gerald Bracht, the new Palomar Medical Center’s chief administrative officer. “We want the people who live in the communities that we serve to come and see their new hospital. It’s the only opportunity they’ll have to tour the building and see the areas before they become off-limits to the public.”
Starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, a carefully orchestrated switch will occur when Palomar Health relocates its emergency department and trauma center, according to hospital officials. At that time, around 135 patients will be moved from the original Palomar Medical Center at 555 E. Valley Parkway in Escondido. Bracht said there “is not expected to be any gap in service. We’re coordinating with 911 … and assume there will be a smooth transition.”
Dr. Jaime Rivas, emergency department medical director, called the new and larger ER “stunning” in terms of its layout and capabilities that will help medical staff provide more timely, efficient and safe care.
“This is what the public deserves,” Rivas said when talking about the 48 rooms among three “pods” and two large trauma suites, each set up for two patients but expandable to five in mass casualty situations. The current medical center ER has 29 beds.
Palomar Medical Center is the designated trauma center serving those in the hospital district’s 2,200-square-mile coverage area of San Diego and Riverside counties.
Palomar Health district boundaries exceed 800 square miles, which include Ramona, Julian, Santa Ysabel, Pauma Valley, San Marcos, Escondido, Valley Center, and the Inland Corridor communities of Poway, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos and those adjacent.
The current Palomar Medical Center has been in use since opening in February 1950 with 37 beds. At the time, it was known as Palomar Memorial Hospital. Over the next four decades it was expanded, acquiring its current name in 1987. It became the region’s trauma center in 1985.
Once the new hospital opens, the original facility will be dubbed Palomar Health Downtown Campus and provide specialty services including women’s, children’s, rehabilitation, behavioral health and urgent care.
Last Thursday, Palomar Health hosted a media tour that highlighted various features of the $956 million facility funded in part through Proposition BB, a $496 million bond passed by voters in 2004. In addition to some bond money going toward Palomar Medical Center construction, a portion went for additions and renovations to Pomerado Hospital in Poway, along with addition of satellite campuses in Ramona and Rancho Penasquitos.
“This is a season of celebration,” said Dr. David Tam, who oversaw the new hospital’s construction and is Pomerado Hospital’s chief administrative officer. “This will be the finest health care facility in California, if not the United States. It changes the delivery of health care in San Diego County.”
“It rivals any other (hospital) in the nation and is designed with patients in mind,” said Registered Nurse Lori Shoemaker, chief nurse executive at Palomar Health. Calling it a “patient-centric” approach, she added, “This hospital combines high tech with high touch. It rivals any five-star hotel out there.”
Among features are a hotel-like lobby atmosphere and gardens on each level. Mike Shanahan, director of facilities and design, said the atmosphere is meant to be a de-stressor for visitors and hospital staff. With greater access to daylight, not only will those inside not lose their sense of time, but patients could recover faster and need less pain medications.
To improve the patient-family situation, each private hospital room contains a sleeper-sofa in a family area so loved ones are comfortable when opting to stay overnight at a patient’s bedside.
Each room has been designed to maximize safety and increase availability of medical staff to oversee patients. For example, the bathroom is on the same side as the bed and via handrails spanning the space between, patients are less likely to fall when going to and from their bed. In lieu of a centralized nurse station, a nurse workspace is outside each of the rooms so nurses can see into two patient rooms. Supplies are stored in or just outside rooms so there is less need to be down the hall retrieving often-needed items.
Patients and visitors will likely notice the medical center is quieter due to the almost-complete elimination of a loudspeaker-based paging system. Nursing staff will carry smart phones that immediately notify them when a patient needs something. Patients can indicate via remote if they want water, need to get up or need a nurse due to a medical situation. Doctors can also communicate with the nursing staff via a wireless touch pad outside each patient room.
Combined, these features will decrease response time and make care more efficient, said Dr. Ben Kanter, chief medical information officer.
Rooms have been designed so as patients improve they will only have to be moved once, not six or so times as their level of nursing care changes. Shoemaker said this will decrease mistakes and other issues.
“Patients will feel safer and more comfortable,” she said. “We’ve built the ‘Hospital of the Future’ and safest hospital in the country.”
Despite all the new features — they added about $130,000 to the building cost of each patient room — officials said the higher price will not affect patients’ bills, which will be the same if treated in the new or current hospital.
However, Palomar Health will likely see cost-savings in the future since the rooms and entire structure is built for flexibility and to accommodate technological innovations in the hospital’s projected 50- to 75-year lifespan, according to Tam. There is room for growth since 2-1/2 of the top-most floors have not been finished.
The new hospital’s specialties will include surgery and procedure services, cardiology and cardiac catheterization, vascular services, orthopedics, neuroscience services, interventional radiology, rehabilitation services, medical oncology and GYN oncology surgery.
Outpatient services will be pulmonary testing, laboratory and imaging.
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