Jeff Clemetson | Editor
On a Sunday evening at the end of September, residents along and around Burgundy Street near Kaiser Zion Hospital were woken by a loud, strange mechanical noise. Recent construction at Zion led the neighbors to believe that the grinding sounds emanating from the hospital rooftop might be permanent, so they organized to get to the bottom of the mysterious noise.
Fortunately, the issue was only temporary. The sound was from two large fans attached to the hospital’s air vent system — a requirement of California’s Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development for hospitals under construction — which will soon be uninstalled and removed on Nov. 20.
In the meantime, Kaiser worked to minimize the noise from the temporary fans by repositioning them and adding insulation.
“That seems to have resolved the issue,” said Tana Lorah, community and government relations manager for Kaiser Permanente. “Once we became aware that there was a community impact, there was an immediate response to try and mediate that.”
Now the residents of Burgundy Street and surrounding areas will be able to rest easier — and they aren’t the only ones. The fans that brought the noise in the first place are a final step in a years-long project to upgrade Zion’s “patient experience” by converting the hospital from shared, double bed rooms to single bed rooms and other upgrades.
The $400 million project to upgrade Zion was initiated in 2010 to coincide with construction of Kaiser’s brand-new San Diego Medical Center.
“We would never want someone to think, ‘Oh, we’re at the nice one [the new hospital],’” said Kaiser Permanente San Diego media relations manager Jennifer Dailard. “Of course the care is the same, but we wanted the patient experience to be mirrored in either medical center. The most outdated part of Zion was that people still had to share rooms.”
In addition to converting Zion’s hospital rooms to single bed, the upgrade project also included adding solar panels to the roofs, installing electric vehicle charging stations to the garage, installing LED lighting throughout the hospital, re-landscaping the grounds with drought-tolerant plants, improving the signage in and around the hospital, interior painting, and some technology upgrades meant to improve the comfort for patients.
“At the new San Diego Medical Center, every room has a footboard where patients can do a number of things like order room service or look at informational and instructional wellness videos,” Dailard said. “Zion added a similar technology only using tablets.”
Other construction at Kaiser Zion included the Zion Café on the first floor, new lobby areas where people can now wait comfortably and tap into WiFi, and an upgraded cafeteria as well. The hospital also created more clinical space by removing walls and reconfiguring modules.
The reconfiguration of Zion and the completion of the new hospital also allow Kaiser to assign different medical expertise to each, making them less crowded.
“We basically took one hospital and we split it in half,” Dailard said. “One of the plans when we were able to open the San Diego Medical Center was not to have both hospitals have labor and delivery, or both hospitals have orthopedics. We actually house certain specialties in one hospital or the other, which is really a nice experience.”
Pediatrics and labor and delivery are now performed at San Diego Medical Center and Zion is home to Kaiser’s orthopedic center. Other clinical and medical specialties are still being worked out where they will be offered, Dailard said; however, both hospitals will offer emergency room services. And the hospital configurations may stay in flux, depending on demand.
“We always want to have room to grow,” Dailard said. “There are still some areas of Zion that are not spoken for. We always build for a little wiggle room. For instance, our San Diego Medical Center, we have permits and plans to add a north tower if needed one day if our capacity grows.”
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.