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New University Hospital designed for comfort, efficiency

JACKSON — When the new University Hospital on the campus of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMC) was designed, the needs of both the hospital’s patients and staff were considered. Now, UMC believes it has a facility that caters to patient comfort while improving workflow, and both are anticipated to enhance patient results.

“This (is) a state-of-the-art tertiary care hospital for the State of Mississippi. It’s bright, airy, and conducive to good quality patient care,” said University Hospital administrator David Putt.

“For the new hospital, we wanted a design that has the potential to enhance healing, an environment that projects a psychological sense of well-being that can alleviate feelings of fear and apprehension for patients as well as those visiting the hospital.”

Plan comes together

The new University Hospital, dedicated last October, represents more than just a milestone of a massive construction project. It marks the culmination of plans that took more than a decade to develop and implement, involving numerous facilities.

“In the early 1990s, the original plan was to build a new hospital on Lakeland Drive, but consultants nixed the notion,” said Dr. Wallace Conerly, vice chancellor of health affairs at UMC. “They suggested building the new facility next to, or around, the current once because the original teaching hospital, which opened in 1955, was in good physical shape and could be used as space for support services.”

That concept was subsequently adopted. The University Hospital completes a four-hospital construction project launched in 1994. Like spokes from a hub, UMC’s hospitals surround the existing adult hospital, with University Hospital as its flagship.

UMC’s first $211-million building program, completed in 1999, included the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, Norman C. Nelson Student Union, expansion and renovation of the School of Nursing, new facility for the School of Health Related Professions, two parking garages and imaging center.

In addition to the new University Hospital, the second construction phase included the Wallace Conerly Hospital for Critical Care, two-story expansion of the children’s hospital, classroom addition and expansion of the Arthur C. Guyton Research Complex.

And, the new construction does not end there. In the past year, completed projects at UMC, Mississippi’s second-largest hospital, included a new classroom wing as well as phase two and a majority of phase three of the Cancer Institute, located across town at the Jackson Medical Mall.

Feel better, work better

The 256-bed University Hospital is a $53-million facility, funded with self-generated revenues. UMC went to great lengths to try to make the facility seem less “antiseptic,” offering amenities to make visitors and patients feel more at home and relaxed.

For instance, the entrance includes a sky-lit porte cochere and two-story atrium, and the first floor encompasses a new interfaith chapel, funded from private donations. All rooms are private, and the hospital houses no special critical care units. (The hospital adjoins the Conerly Hospital for Critical Care, offering easy access to the five intensive care units in that facility.)

Dean and Dean/Associates Architects of Jackson executed the design work on the hospital, which also offers landscaped courtyards, covered walkways and more spacious patient rooms. These aesthetics are not only designed to be eye-appealing — they are expected to also aid in patient healing.

Richard M. Dean, president of Dean and Dean, said, “The selection of warm, soothing colors joined with abundant natural light from the lobby and beautiful artwork (contributes) to an inviting, comfortable environment, which promotes healing.”

Another amenity is offered in UMC’s Day Surgery Center, which is now housed in the University Hospital. Families are now given a pager as they wait, such as many restaurants do.
Katrina Keeney, patient care director in perioperative services, said, “Families of patients can wander around and see the new hospital. We can buzz them and bring them to see their family member.”

Function was not sacrificed to form. Dean added that the patient floors accommodate UMC’s mission of teaching and training by offering corridors and conference rooms on each floor, and provides needed areas for doctors’ rounds and education of the medical staff.

For efficiency, all patient floors are v-shaped. The intent was to provide nursing staff easier access to patients’ rooms and improve the quality of care.

“Proper design of a nursing unit is key to efficient nursing care,” said Keith Hodges, nurse manager in the post-anesthesia care unit and short-stay procedure area.

Hodges added that the private rooms also lessen the possibility of patients being exposed to other illnesses.

Another innovation is the hospital’s delivery system. Similar to a tube system used at bank drive-through lanes, the new system is facility-wide, and allows for the delivery of most medications, lab work samples and paperwork. Delivery time can be less than a minute depending on system usage.

Sterilization also got a shot in the arm. The Sterile Processing Department is four times the size of the old space, and houses state-of-the-art sterilization equipment. Cassandra Lynch, UMC’s director of sterile processing, said comparing the new layout and equipment with the old space and equipment was “like comparing a caveman to the Jetsons.”

Dean said, “One of our goals from a design standpoint was to design a building that mirrors the knowledge, expertise and quality of services provided in the facility by the physicians, nurses and staff at the Medical Center.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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