Vital Signs Archive

State Approves 83 More Beds for SMH

Architects rendering of the PRISM project
PRISM’s original single tower concept has been
reconfigured into two parallel patient wings,
decreasing the facility’s height as it reaches out
to Elmwood Avenue, and adding open space
and light to the building and the surrounding area.

Late last week, the New York State Department of Health (DOH) gave Strong Memorial Hospital the go ahead to immediately add 83 beds to its license, , capping off a year-long process by the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) to address serious overcrowding at the hospital.

In October 2007, Strong Memorial Hospital submitted an application asking for 123 beds. The plan included details on its ambitious Pediatric Replacement and Imaging Sciences Modernization (PRISM) project, a new facility that would house adult and pediatric private rooms, as well as a new imaging sciences complex. With the recent DOH decision, Strong was immediately granted 83 additional beds to its license, with the ability to add up to another 40 beds if demand continues to outpace capacity.

The state’s approval of 83 beds was one dozen more than recommended by a local planning commission, and was made to ensure that the community has sufficient “surge” capacity to handle a large influx of sick or injured patients.

Already, several rounds of renovations at Strong have maximized all available space within the hospital. Just last month, Strong reached the limit of its existing 739-bed license when it opened up a new adult medical unit on 4-3400, which put 10 additional beds online. Next spring, when renovations are completed on 4-1200, Strong will gain an additional 15 beds, tapping into the reservoir of new beds just granted by the state.

“I am gratified that the DOH recognized the dire need to stem overcrowding at our hospital, and in our community overall,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of the Medical Center. “By next spring, we will have exhausted all options for expanding within Strong Memorial, making PRISM a vital and necessary step in our ability to care for our patients in the future. It’s also an essential path to improving patient quality and safety, the key focus of our strategic plan.”

The cost of PRISM is estimated at $260 million, and will be financed by a combination of cash reserves, philanthropy and external debt (in the form of a bond issuance). In light of the recent market conditions, construction start dates will need to remain flexible.

“We are firmly committed to building PRISM, and we have developed a financing plan that allows us to move forward,” Berk said. “But until market conditions stabilize, we need to be fiscally conservative, and keep our options open on when to begin construction.”

A Design for the Future

Even as Medical Center leadership worked with local community and state leaders on the bed approval process, active planning progressed on PRISM. Ballinger, an architecture and engineering powerhouse with roots in health care design dating back to 1899, helped create the initial PRISM concepts, and worked with URMC’s project management specialists to carefully scrutinize and finalize all elements of the project.

Today, PRISM looks similar to how it was initially described in October 2007: a six-story facility housing a new imaging sciences complex, and new private rooms for adult and pediatric patients. The 400,000 square-foot facility is planned to be built west of the emergency department on the space currently occupied by buildings adjacent to Middle Drive that house facilities’ shop space, the fitness and wellness center, and administrative offices.

The biggest departure from the original design was driven by the decision to temporarily relocate the loading docks in order to take advantage of that space from the ground up (previous designs had PRISM built over the loading dock area). This gain of an extra 70,000 square feet in space, which will be used for future program growth, is emblematic of the facility’s overall philosophy: build for flexibility.

Ballinger’s Management Partner Lou Meilink, who will oversee the roughly six-year project for URMC, explains, “In health care, we are building facilities that need to last 50 years or more. The design must be flexible enough to accommodate or expand as new technologies or other advances are introduced. We pay special attention to aspects like ceiling heights, support column placement and standardized room areas, so that the space can be as adaptable as possible for future uses.”

Relocating the loading docks also propelled another significant design change. Now, instead of one six-story tower, the building’s layout and orientation of the two main patient floors have been redrawn. The elevator core and entryway to the patient care units now will be closer to the hospital, and the tower itself has been reconfigured into two parallel patient wings.

“The resulting facility will be less imposing along the Elmwood Avenue corridor, and fit more seamlessly into URMC’s overall campus design,” Meilink said. “On the interior, we’ll gain significant natural light, allowing us to incorporate open, airy spaces into patient care areas.”

PRISM will be accessible only from the inside of the Medical Center. A two-story glass corridor entrance will be built off the North Corridor, roughly where Space Planning offices (1-4444) currently sit. The atrium leads to the new PRISM lobby, as well as the entry to Imaging Sciences Diagnostic area, which will serve all adult and pediatric outpatient imaging needs.

Elevators will lead to the third floor of PRISM, which will house all Interventional Imaging; to the fourth floor, which will be the new home for 56 beds in private rooms at Golisano Children’s Hospital, complete with a connection to the pediatric ICU; and to the sixth floor, containing 56 adult private rooms. All new rooms, roughly the size of a current double room at Strong Memorial, will comfortably allow for extended visits by family members.


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