Health system facilities representatives say lessons learned from COVID-19 will affect construction.
For health systems wanting to build facilities post-COVID-19, there will be more design and engineering aspects to consider than ever.
During pandemic surges, area hospitals transformed floors into intensive care units, modified isolation rooms’ airflow and limited entry points into the facility.
Now, systems are considering those aspects when designing new facilities, said Don Crist, vice president of operations for Flagler Health+.
“There’s only so much you can do in existing facilities, but a tremendous amount you can do in new construction,” Crist said.
“A lot of our planning in that process is around how can we be flexible during whatever comes down the road.”
Hospital construction and facilities leaders spoke April 14 at the SMPS North Florida virtual panel titled “The Future of Jacksonville’s Healthcare: Construction, Design & COVID-19.”
Crist said in Flagler Health+’s future hospital construction – for example, its project in Durbin Park – the system will consider permanently limiting entry points and possibly incorporating technology to screen the health of those entering the building.
John Newman, facilities director for AdventHealth Palm Coast, said its future facilities would need to incorporate larger emergency rooms to keep patients more physically distanced to limit the spread of disease within the ER.
“Our lobbies aren’t huge and that’s by design, based on what (standards) we were building to 20 years ago,” he said.
“We need more space when it comes to staging patients, specifically in the ER.”
Hospitals also will continue to focus on developing satellite campuses going forward, said Kristen Herman, Medxcel regional construction manager.
Her group, which is a subsidiary of Ascension, helped the system open two free-standing emergency departments last year that were popular with patients during the pandemic.
“We had patients in crisis who were afraid to come to the hospital but they were willing to come to FSED,” she said.
“They felt much safer going there. Satellite facilities are going to become a bigger part of our communities.”
For now, hospitals may have more trouble constructing new facilities.
Crist said progress on the Flagler Health+ hospital campus in Durbin is slowing due to employee shortages and the availability and cost of building materials.
Due to financial losses hospitals saw during the pandemic, Newman said AdventHealth also is exercising “a lot more discretion” when it comes to capital projects.
“We’re being a little more strategic with capital dollars,” he said.
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