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Vintage quality

By Amy Eagle, Health Facilities Management
August 2011

For Frank Speidel, M.D., FACEP, CEO of St. Luke's Hospital at The Vintage (SLHV), entering his hospital's new facility is "like walking through Bach's Brandenburg concertos, or his Goldberg Variations.

"Every day I walk through here, I feel like I'm in the presence of great minds," Speidel says. "I feel like Bach is surrounding me in steel and stone. It lifts your spirits just walking through the lobby."

The hospital is part of a master-planned residential, retail and corporate commu­nity in northwest Houston known as The Vintage. St. Luke's Episcopal Health System, Houston, and the health system's development partner, Hammes Company, Brookfield, Wis., wanted to bring the level of care closer to home for local residents, says Speidel.

According to Tom Noble, Regional Manager for Hammes Company, the new facility is reflective of the health system's strong reputation, developed as a long-standing member institution of Houston's renowned Texas Medical Center. "The building's design, both in its look and its efficiency, gives patients confidence that they are coming to a very solid, reputable, state-of-the-art facility," Noble says.

As Speidel describes the new hospital, "It's cost efficient, but it soars."

Natural design
The brick and natural stone used to build the facility complement the materials of neighboring structures. Large windows throughout the hospital, including a four-story glass rotunda at the entrance, provide views of a wooded, lakeside setting. "That was an important feature and design element," says Thomas Bauman, IIDA, ASID, interior designer/interior detailing, Earl Swensson Associates Inc. (ESa), Nashville, Tenn.

Streamlined wood accents give the interior design a transitional style, a modern expression of traditional elements. Warm wood tones and a palette of green, terra cotta and gold demonstrate natural influences, says Jennifer M. Satterfield, IIDA, LEED AP ID+C, interior designer, ESa.

In the center of the rotunda, a grand staircase leading to the labor and delivery and surgery waiting areas wraps around a large olive tree that brings a sense of the natural world inside. The rotunda's ceiling pattern is a simplified version of the health system's logo, a cross with a circle at its center.

For simplified wayfinding, the emergency department (ED) and diagnostic waiting areas, lobby, reception and admission areas, and chapel and dining room are aligned down a public corridor that spans the front of the hospital. Varying ceiling heights help define spaces and provide interest along this common lobby area. The open, four-floor atrium offers patients and visitors a straightforward visual connection to the upper floors.

Attention to detail
The 22-bed ED includes dedicated, enclosed triage exam rooms for increased patient privacy and noise control. Critical adjacencies between the ED and cardiac catheterization laboratory help facilitate the hospital's ST elevation myocardial infarction program, which enables physicians to complete an angioplasty within the 90-minute time frame indicated by best practices. "Instead of having to transport patients out, we can actually perform that procedure here," says Harold Engle Jr., SLHV's director of nursing.

The patient units are arranged in a racetrack for­mation with a central service core. With this layout, "you don't see across the hallway from one patient room to another, so that's better for patient privacy," explains Craig Holloway, AIA, project manager/architect, ESa.

Subnurse stations are located between rooms, in alcoves from which a nurse can monitor two patients at once. Integral blinds in the windows at the subnurse stations are easy to clean and can be operated from either the patient room or the corridor.

The patient room doors include an additional leaf that can be opened to create a wider doorway through which patient beds and medical equipment can be moved more easily. "That's the attention to detail I think we were gifted with in this hospital," says Speidel.

For increased durability, patient room headwalls are fabricated of a floor-to-ceiling protective wall material. The wood-look design of the wall protection and sheet vinyl flooring continue the natural design established in the public spaces.

The medical-surgical rooms have outboard toilets, to give nurses immediate visual access to patients from the corridor. Toilet rooms are located on the headwall, with a grab bar leading from the patient bed, so patients do not have to cross the room unassisted to reach the toilet.

In the labor-delivery-recovery-postpartum rooms, the toilet rooms are positioned behind the headwall, just around a corner from the head of the patient bed.

This design also is meant to help prevent patient falls. In addition, it keeps the family and service zones of the room distinct from one another; nurses and physicians can work free of obstructions and family members can access the toilet without intermingling with monitors or other medical equipment.

Curved, floor-to-ceiling windows at the end of the patient units bring natural light into the hospital and allow patients, visitors and staff to enjoy the views from the building.
Outpacing projections

According to Engle, in the hospital's first two months of operation, the patient census already had outpaced projections for the end of the year. "We have been busy," he says. "The hospital has been widely supported by the community."

While the hospital's best feature is its staff, Speidel notes, the quality of the facil­ity is a major part of this success. "Our physical environment gets us in the right mindset," he adds. "Every day you come here, it invites you to be a bit better."

Amy Eagle is a freelance writer based in Homewood, Ill., who specializes in health care-related topics. She is a regular contributor to Health Facilities Management.