Travelers driving through University City on the Schuylkill will soon notice something new about the latest addition to Philadelphia’s skyline – the exterior wrapping on Penn Medicine’s new patient care pavilion will be complete! Those regularly traveling the stretch of highway have likely taken note of the building’s steady progression, which began with the demolition of Penn Tower in summer 2015. The Pavilion, which is slated to open in Summer 2021 and will serve as the Health System’s new inpatient care facility, broke ground and began its ascent in May 2017.
With the exterior wrapped, the building is officially weather-proofed, allowing work to continue, full speed ahead, through the winter months without fear of weather-induced delays or safety risks to the hundreds of workers and vendors on site every day.
“We’re moving into the next phase of project, which is exciting,” said Lauren Valentino, project manager for the Pavilion. “Scheduling for construction of the Pavilion was designed with the weather in mind. We wanted to get the exterior panels and windows up while it was sunny outside and warm, and now, as the exterior work winds down, we’ll really shift a lot of our focus to the interior spaces.”
While teams are turning their attention to the design and development of all interior spaces, including lounges, the cafeteria, corridors, and entrances, work on the first patient rooms and operating rooms began earlier this year and are well under way.
“General design and layout of our patient care spaces started back in 2016 when we did the first full-scale mock-up in the warehouse on Spring Garden Street,” said Kathy Gallagher, MS, BSN, a clinical liaison for PennFIRST, the Pavilion’s “integrated project delivery” team, which incorporates staff from all the firms involved in the project, including Penn Medicine employees, architects, designers, engineers, construction workers, and more. “From there, we moved in to a second phase of smaller mock-ups at the PennFIRST colocation space so we could do more walk-throughs and testing, and now we're moving into the last phase where we’re making final tweaks to make sure we have it right.”
Gallagher says the first installations of the in-patient and operating rooms are being used as practice and testing spaces. Once testing is complete, the design will then be repeated across all 504 patient rooms and 47 ORs, ensuring everything is built in the same manner.
“HUP leadership worked closely with interior designers to determine the color palette of the building, so they’ve already looked at paint colors, but now everything is being seen in the actual room, and we’re making changes based on things like how the natural light hits the walls, for example,” Valentino says, adding that the color palette for the building’s interior uses a range of natural colors, with warmer tones being applied to patient care areas to suggest those are quiet, healing spaces, and brighter colors for waiting areas and other public spaces so it feels welcoming and takes advantage of the natural light. “We want it to feel like a place of healing. It's bright, it's innovative, it has energy.”
Other changes made during the first installation of the patient rooms included adjustments to lighting, and reconfiguring some of the cabinetry on the footwall. Different materials and finishes for the flooring, are now being considered, and some of the fixed equipment – like monitors, and clinicians’ work stations – is also starting to be brought in. At every stage, teams that use or are responsible for the upkeep of the equipment and areas will have the opportunity to run tests in case further adjustments are needed.
“We’re looking now at flooring to see if there are options that might be better for cleaning or that are longer lasting, for example,” Gallagher explained, adding that once the flooring is installed, Environmental Services and Facilities will clean the room just as if a patient was staying there. “They'll do that multiple times to see how it holds up to their cleaning products. We want to make sure they can do their jobs the way they need to be done before making any decisions that will impact 504 rooms.”
While teams focused on developing the in-patient care areas work to make final decisions on building materials, clinical teams leading development of the ORs are focusing on the myriad devices and equipment needed to keep OR operations running smooth.
With base flooring installed, and the automatic doors and scrub sink mock-up in place, the team is moving into the OR itself. Working with vendors and members of OR teams, they’re figuring out the most efficient and seamless way to incorporate devices that live on the walls of the ORs such as touch panels, power outlets, and lights.
“There are things that seem small, but become significant when they're repeated 47 times,” said Kate Newcomb, MSN, RN, MSW, a clinical liaison with the Perioperative, Interventional and Radiology Services on the PennFIRST team, specifically noting the decision to use pre-fabricated modular stainless steel panels on the walls – also a change from the HUP ORs. “Using a modular panel means that the walls are changeable. We want an infrastructure that supports adding more technology easily. We've come up with what we think will provide adequate power and data but if changes need to be made later to accommodate more touch panels, or pressure monitors, or anything else that is fed through a wall, the modular panels will allow that to happen.”
The panels started arriving on site for installation last week. Like Gallagher’s team, Newcomb is now focused on having users – including OR nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, etc. – walk through to see how it will all fit together. For ORs that have imaging technology, Newcomb said clinical teams were involved early in the process since those systems – and the patient table –are “fairly permanent once they are installed.”
“Once the table is sunk into the floor, we don’t want to take it out, and same with the imaging - you can't tweak and move it – so we're making those placement decisions now based on light configuration and room size and shape,” she said. During the next meeting with vendors and staff, the team will tape out on the floor the proposed layout on the floor so teams can see where everything will live. “We want them to see it as close to how it will be in practice so that when we set it in stone, they aren't in a room that doesn't work for them.’
With the exterior complete, it might look like the next hub of health care innovation is close to completion, but it’s clear there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“We have another 18 months or so before we’re ready to officially open the doors,” Valentino said. “Feedback from faculty and staff has informed so much of the process and so many of the decisions that have been made about the design and workflow of the Pavilion. As we move into this next phase, that engagement remains a priority for PennFIRST and HUP leadership. We’re going to use every minute of the next 18 months to make sure everything – and everyone – is ready for a smooth transition when the time comes.”