Happenings at the Hospital: Ukiah Valley Medical Center Expands

I’m on the Ukiah Valley Medical Center (UVMC) Community Advisory Board, and at a recent meeting we received an interesting update on the hospital’s expansion. In case you’re curious, here’s what’s going on.

The hospital is building a new emergency department (ED) and intensive care unit (ICU) to be completed in 2017. The original ED, built more than 30 years ago, was designed to care for 25-30 patients a day. They currently see 80-100 patients a day in that 3,500 square foot space. The new ED will be 14,700 square feet with 19 private treatment spaces, including exam rooms, specialty treatment rooms and trauma rooms (which are like mini-operating rooms).

A lot has changed since the hospital moved to its current location in 1980, including technology and the expectations around privacy. The current ED separates patients with privacy curtains. Sadly, sound goes right through those curtains, so while you cannot see what’s happening in the “room” next to you, even with hushed voices you can certainly hear plenty. All that will change with the new design.

Getting into and out of the ED will be easier, too. A little roundabout will make it easy for people to drive right up to an entrance for walk-in patients and a separate ambulance bay will allow critically ill patients to quickly receive the appropriate level of care.

The new ICU will increase capacity by two rooms, going from six to eight. While this may not sound like a big deal, it is an enormous step up in terms of space, efficiency, comfort and safety. The hospital has done a bang-up job in thinking through the workflow. In fact, before they finalized the ICU room design, they created a mockup of one of the ICU rooms in their conference room to figure out the best layout—minimizing steps and maximizing visibility so nurses can see patients at all times.

The new rooms will make an ICU stay significantly better for those who require the hospital’s highest level of care. First, the rooms are much bigger, allowing space for a sofa bed so a family member can stay overnight. Each room has its own HVAC system, so it can be individually controlled for temperature and humidity.

The ICU rooms will also have a collapsible glass door, allowing a doublewide entry to each room so a patient on a gurney can be side by side with a nurse and a ventilator, for example. Right now, the doorways are wide enough for a patient on a gurney, but if they require large equipment, it’s quite a puzzle to get everything lined up to go through the doorway. Nurses do it all the time, but it’ll be great when they don’t have to.

As part of the ED/ICU construction, the hospital will create a circulation corridor to be used by dietary, housekeeping, and for transferring patients between hospital departments. Right now, everyone uses the same hallway, making it crowded and none-too-private.

When UVMC decided to renovate, they invited local vendors in to see who might have the expertise and capacity for a project like this. I commend them for using as much local labor as they can. Ernie Wipf’s company has been busy on the utilities, Valley Paving is laying the foundation, and other local companies are working on this, too. Hospitals are highly regulated, and under the oversight of OSHPD, making construction expensive and slow going. Recently, after the plans were approved by OSHPD, the hospital had to tear out a massive, rebar-reinforced, concrete foundation for an oxygen tank because an OSHPD inspector said so. Glad the hospital is committed to its mission. After that experience, I think I’d be tempted to walk away and wash my hands of the whole thing.

If you have questions, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you’re a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.