After years of planning and construction the phased opening of the new 271-bed replacement Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital will begin later this year. According to a hospital press release, the first phase will include the opening of the new Nethercutt Emergency Center on June 13. The 16,000-square-foot facility will be housed on the ground floor of the hospital’s new Southwest Wing on 15th Street just north of Arizona Avenue. The innovative emergency center will be equipped so it can deliver more innovative and compassionate care to the approximately 30,000 patients per year who come to the hospital for emergency treatment. Also opening on June 13 will be a new 9,000-square-foot laboratory that will be located in the basement of the Southwest Wing. Later in the summer the rest of the Southwest Wing should be completed, including areas for a new Birthing Center, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and inpatient units. A Recovery Room for this wing will be opened by the end of the year. The current Emergency Room will be demolished and construction on the Central Wing will begin soon after the new Emergency Center opens. The Central Wing will link all the buildings of the new campus and include a new main entrance with an airport-style drop-off zone. The current main entrance located at 1250 16th Street will remain closed for about 30 months; during this phase the main entrance will be moved to 15th Street. Along with the North and Orthopaedic Wings, the central wing will be completed in 2009. The rest of the project, including the demolition of the existing nine-story Tower building on 15th Street and the renovation of the existing Merle Norman Pavilion, will be complete by 2010. Other facilities that are part of the project will be a new Critical Care Unit with 360 degree access to patients, six new operating rooms, patient rooms featuring family space and comfortable sleep chairs for rooming-in and a new cafeteria with both indoor and outdoor seating areas. In an interview with the Mirror, the hospital’s Chief Administrative Officer, Posie Carpenter, stated that planning for the new hospital began in 1994 soon after the Northridge Earthquake, which caused a lot of damage to the hospital. Groundbreaking on the project was in 1999, when a new parking structure for the hospital was built at Arizona Avenue and 16th Street. That was followed by the construction of a higher capacity central power plant that is more efficient and quieter than the original plant. Since planning for the project was done a long time ago, Carpenter stressed the hospital has “gotten rather flexible in its use of space” to meet the changing needs of the modern healthcare system. Another issue the hospital has been dealing with is that the demand for hospital beds has gone up since the project was conceived. This increased bed demand at the hospital is coming from two sources: the population of Santa Monica is aging and the new hospital will also be housing programs that used to be housed at the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. These programs include cardiac and cancer programs as well as an orthopaedic program, and are being moved to Santa Monica due to a shortage of beds at the Westwood campus. The geriatric program is already housed at the hospital. Carpenter believes that the “new programs are well matched with the aging population in Santa Monica.” According to Carpenter, the concern about a future bed shortage at the hospital has prompted officials to begin to look for partnership opportunities “with local rehabilitation centers and nursing facilities to free up acute care beds.” A shortage of these facilities in Santa Monica has prompted the hospital to request that “City land be zoned for additional nursing facilities.” Santa Monica-UCLA formed an alliance with the Orthopaedic Hospital 10 years ago because it was the “best grouping of healthcare products for the community.” The Orthopaedic Hospital, which was located in downtown Los Angeles, also had a lot of damage in the Northridge Earthquake but did not get enough money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to rebuild. After a partnership was created, Orthopaedic Hospital combined its $30 million from FEMA along with the $60 million Santa Monica-UCLA received to help finance the new project. The total construction cost for the new hospital, however, is $390 million, so the remaining $300 million was raised from bond issues for both the Santa Monica and Westwood hospitals and private donations. Orthopaedic services have been available to patients since 2005 in Santa Monica but the hospital did not add Orthopaedic Hospital to its name until February 1, 2007. These services include an outpatient clinic, pain management, neurosurgical services and inpatient and outpatient procedures. The Orthopaedic Wing that will be located at 15th Street and Wilshire Boulevard will not open until 2009, so the orthopaedic services are being delivered elsewhere in the hospital.
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