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California’s Most Modern Hospital Opens In Escondido

— California’s newest, most modern hospital will open for business this weekend in Escondido.

The new 11-story Palomar Medical Center looks impressive from the outside, but hospital officials say its real beauty lies within.

Palomar officials say the entire structure was designed to create a healing environment.

Aired 8/16/12 on KPBS News.

It's not your grandfather's hospital. The new Palomar Medical Center in Escondido was designed with patients in mind.

View of the north side of the building in January 2012.
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Above: View of the north side of the building in January 2012.

Sitting on top of a hill in Escondido, the new Palomar Medical Center looks like a luxury resort.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped with native plants.

The main lobby looks like it’s lifted from a five-star hotel.

But make no mistake. This is a state-of-the-art hospital. And it was designed from the ground up to facilitate better patient care.

Kathy Prante, Palomar's director of emergency services, said the 44-bed ER is a perfect example.

"The design of the emergency department has three separate pods. And that’s ideal for us, because we’ll be able to move patients through more efficiently," Prante said. "Each pod has two critical care rooms, and so within that pod, we have an emergency room physician, a physician’s assistant and five registered nurses. So they will be able to move around and take care of patients in a more efficient manner."

Palomar's trauma unit is right down the hall. In addition to having ample space for doctors and nurses to work in, it's right next to the ambulance entrance.

Upstairs, the operating rooms are built around a central core. Each one has built-in pass-through cabinets.

Workers in the central core can retrieve and deliver items to the ORs without having to enter the rooms. That reduces disruptions, and helps maintain the sterile field.

There are skylights all over the hospital. Natural light is thought to aid in healing and reduce fatigue among staff.

Up on Palomar’s patient floors, there are no central nursing stations.

View in the morning from the helipad, taken in January 2012.
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Above: View in the morning from the helipad, taken in January 2012.

Chief Nurse Executive Lorie Shoemaker said that’s because designers wanted to put nurses closer to patients. She described the layout as she stood in front of one of the computer workstations in the hallway.

"And so outside of every patient room is what we call a distributed nursing station, where the nurse can sit here, do their work that they need to do, documentation, physician orders, but they can see into two patients' rooms," Shoemaker explained. "So they can see the patient in this room, and they can see the patient in this room."

Each of Palomar’s 288 patient rooms is private. Shoemaker said every room, even in the intensive care unit, has space for family members and visitors.

"We don’t have that today in the ICU’s," Shoemaker pointed out. "Those days of having to call to come visit your loved one, and only stay for 15 minutes, those days are gone. And in this building, we encourage our families to stay with us, so that’s a wonderful feature. We also even offer privacy for our families, so we can pull the curtain if they need some privacy and private time, and their loved ones here need some as well."

Each room also has a view of the rooftop garden, or the surrounding hills. That’s not just for aesthetics.

"Well actually, there’s a lot of research now that says patients who have access to light and nature, actually require less pain medication, they actually do better, they go home faster, and even as beautiful as this room is, they still want to go home," Shoemaker said.

The seed money for this hospital came from North County taxpayers, who approved a $496 million bond measure in 2004. The Palomar Health District will pay the rest of the nearly $1 billion tab through future earnings and philanthropy.

The hospital has the capacity to eventually house more than 600 patients, more than double its current size.

Lead architect Michael Shanahan said this facility has been almost 10 years in the making. He sald from the beginning, the idea was to design a hospital that marked a complete departure from the old way of doing things.

"And what we’ve tried to do here is bring in a hospitality environment, trying to make it more comfortable. We’re actually trying to make it a desirable place to go, if you have to go, and I think that’s important," Shanahan explained. "I think the other piece that’s very, very important is you have to recognize that it’s more than just the patient. It’s the loved one that wants to stay with the patient, it’s the family that wants to come visit the patient. It’s the whole experience behind healing and providing the positive experience around the whole healing process. And that’s what we’re attempting to do here."

The new Palomar Medical Center will admit its first patients on Sunday. The old Palomar Hospital in downtown Escondido will remain open for maternity care, behavioral health, urgent care, and rehabilitation services.

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Avatar for user 'daharbin'

daharbin | August 16, 2012 at 8:34 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

I hope some consideration is given towards the cost of care. It seems to me that emphasis was placed on creating a monumental piece of architecture, and Palomar's website notes that the building cost almost $1 billion. That's something that patients ultimately have to pay. I'm glad to be in a nice building while I'm sick, but most of all I hate getting hit with massive bills once I am out (which has its own deleterious effect on health!), as has happened to many friends and relatives.

It's been noted elsewhere that other advanced countries pay a fraction of what the US pays per capita for health care, and yet they have better life expectancy. I hope we can learn from these health care systems.

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Avatar for user 'daharbin'

daharbin | August 16, 2012 at 8:49 a.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

...and I should add that I do see that the building was partially paid for by cost is split between taxpayers and patients. Still a lot of money for someplace I prefer not go to if I can help it.

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