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Putting patients first

New Women's Hospital captures public's vision for health care.

New Women's Hospital captures public's vision for health care.
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Help us design the new Women's Hospital

Public input shapes vision

Inside the new Women's Hospital

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2010

Take just one look at the plans for the new Women's Hospital and one thing becomes very clear: this new 173-bed facility is designed with the patient and family in mind.

From the single-patient rooms that let in loads of natural light, to the layout of services and medical units, the new hospital is designed to be people-friendly. It even has a rooftop deck to allow people to connect with nature.

Of course, the emphasis on peoplefriendly features should not come as a surprise. After all, the hospital is a reflection of the hopes and wishes of citizens who helped shape the look and feel of the new hospital.

Even before SmithCarter & Parkin architects began putting pen to paper, staff at the Winnipeg Health Region decided to base plans for the new facility on a public participation model, one that would invite citizens to guide the development of what would become "their hospital."

That process started in January 2008 with the first of a series of consultation meetings. Now, two years later, the suggestions and ideas offered up during those meetings have been incorporated into the current design of the new facility, which is expected to begin rising on the site of the old Weston Bakery at Elgin Avenue and Sherbrook Street in the summer of 2011.

The end result: A hospital design that is rooted in the philosophy of patient- and family-centred care, one that could serve as a model for other new hospitals, here and across the country. Indeed, as the images accompanying this story confirm, virtually every one of the suggestions offered up during the consultation process have been adopted.

"Our planning process has been a very open, public and transparent process," says Andrew Konowalchuk, Regional Director, Capital Planning for the Winnipeg Health Region. "We've had hundreds of staff, we've invited residents (from neighbourhoods surrounding the hospital), and we've also had public consultations and members of the public sitting on our design team."

Evidence of the public's input abounds. For example, members of the public told planners they wanted the new facility to offer a welcoming, home-like environment for patients. They also wanted it to be environmentally friendly, accommodating of different cultures and be better organized than the existing hospital, located at the Health Sciences Centre.

The hospital's designers and architects have responded.

In terms of the design, the new hospital is light years ahead of the existing facility. Simple things, like covered ambulance bays to provide protection from the elements, are part of the plan. The lower level of the building also has 150 parking stalls, with a direct elevator connection to the hospital.

The new hospital will also be more convenient for patients and visitors to navigate. The main floor will feature a large mall-like entrance and triage area, and house all of the typical outpatient services. "Ambulatory care is now currently in the basement (of the existing hospital) and it's a very small, crowded area," says Joan Rooke, Project Director for the new Women's Hospital.

Consolidation and organization of medical services is also an important feature of the new building. Indeed, one of the most important improvements over the existing hospital can be found in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, located on the second floor.

Currently, some sick babies are treated in the existing Women's Hospital while others are treated in the Children's Hospital. This means that babies are often shuttled from one facility to the other by way of underground tunnels. The new hospital will have a 60-bed NICU, which will minimize the need for moving babies around.

"The big thing is that it's all in the Women's Hospital," says Konowalchuk. "We won't need to transport babies through tunnels anymore. That was the biggest driver for the location of the project."

Planners also took measures to ensure all patients would feel comfortable in the new hospital. For example, the fourth floor will feature spiritual space and ceremonial space for smudging and other cultural practices.

But of all the improvements, the one that is most likely to be appreciated is the decision to ensure each patient has a private room, complete with a bathroom and window to let in natural light. "That was asked for in the public consultations," says Rooke. "Each room will have space for a patient and a family support person, whether it be during the day or overnight."

That's a major improvement over the existing Women's Hospital, where patients often share rooms as well as bathroom facilities. Not only are the new rooms nicer, but the one-patientto- one-room concept also enhances privacy and efforts to reduce the spread of infections.

Of course, the new hospital is nothing if not environmentally friendly. The building will adhere to the LEED Silver standard, which is the provincial standard for government-funded buildings. Chief among the environmentally friendly features being contemplated for the new hospital is a heatwheel, a device that reclaims air that is heated or cooled, thereby saving energy.

Plans also call for the new building to use 100 per cent fresh air in the building as opposed to re-circulated air, recycled construction materials wherever possible, and environmentally friendly products for housekeeping and maintenance once the building is up and running to maintain high indoor air quality.

Overall, Konowalchuk says he expects the new hospital to be more than 30 per cent more efficient than the current national standard for energy use.

Wave: January / February 2010

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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