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Finishing the new Johns Hopkins Hospital

After nearly five years of construction, the most expensive building project in Baltimore history is heading into the final stretch.

The Johns Hopkins Hospital has set April 12, 2012, as the dedication date for its new home — a $1 billion clinical building on Orleans Street between Wolfe Street and Broadway.

Under construction since June 2006, the building will provide new in-patient facilities for adults and children and serve as the new main entrance to Hopkins' East Baltimore medical campus. The expansion also includes new emergency departments and other facilities.

Edward "Ted" Chambers, administrator of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, is leading Hopkins' new clinical building transition team with administrator Christina Lundquist.

Chambers recently answered questions via email and also sat down with The Baltimore Sun to discuss the state of the project and how it is expected to change patient care at Hopkins.

What will the new hospital contain?

Two 12-story towers — the Sheikh Zayed Tower and the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. The adult tower is named to honor the father of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the president of the United Arab Emirates. It will supplement existing inpatient facilities for adults elsewhere on campus. The children's hospital, named for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's 102-year-old mother, will completely replace our current one.

The entire project covers 1.6 million gross square feet and has 560 private rooms; 355 of those will be adult inpatient rooms and 205 will be pediatric.

What else?

Other features include three floors of operating suites with 33 new ORs equipped with the latest technology. Ten of those operating rooms are designated for pediatrics. New radiology suites will also have the latest imaging equipment, such as an intra-operative magnetic resonance imaging machine suspended on steel beams that allow it to move between two of the ORs.

A new adult Emergency Department as well as a new Pediatric Emergency Service will share trauma capacity because the Children's Center is the designated pediatric trauma center for the state of Maryland. Large, specially designed elevators will transport patients and separate them from the visitor elevators in the public lobbies so patients can maintain their privacy.

How will the new facilities change the patient experience?

The new building was designed to be a healing environment that fosters a culture of patient- and family-centered care. In fact, families were very involved in the design of the building. As a result, it will be much quieter, with special features to absorb sounds on the patient floors.

On the children's side, whimsical sculptures by Robert Israel will be placed throughout the lobby area, which has a soaring, light-filled four-story atrium. The interior of the building is calming, with natural surfaces, including marble and limestone walls.

Patients will also enjoy meals on demand, so if a child undergoing chemotherapy isn't hungry when dinner comes around, she can order a milkshake in the middle of the night. Parents can also sleep by their child in each room on a comfortable sleep sofa. And all rooms will have an interactive in-house television system to play games, access the Internet or watch movies.

How will it change the way employees do their jobs?

Employees will enjoy new break rooms, support areas and easy access to elevators. Nursing will have a new call system to … improve communication with their patients. …

The new space is much more expansive, so patient care "neighborhoods" will divide units so each nurse will tend to patients in a smaller zone. [Nurses] will also have alcoves with computers between patient rooms so they can observe their patients more closely and be available when needed. We will have a radio-frequency identification system to track equipment so the staff won't spend time searching for items on the unit.

The new towers will have all private rooms. What are the advantages of that?

Number one, patient safety will be improved because of better infection control. Private rooms obviate the need to move patients to other rooms for infection control, gender or age. It will be a personalized, hotel-like experience, and they will even have their own thermostat to control the temperature.

What happens in this final year of construction?

The contractor will turn the building over in November, and then we will refine and outfit the interior spaces. We will use the next six months to train our staff and get them acclimated to the new space with simulations, day-in-the-life activities and several dry runs of the move.

The building is significantly larger than our current facility, and our staff needs to get comfortably familiar with it, in addition to just figuring out where everything is so there is absolutely no impact on patient care.

How long will the move take?

The bulk of the move will take place over two weeks. The operating rooms will move on a Saturday, and the patient move will be completed in two days on a Sunday and Monday. Emergency services will continue to be provided throughout the move schedule.

What will happen to the old patient areas on campus when the new facilities open?

Final plans are not yet complete, but they will mostly be used for faculty and staff offices, research labs and training facilities. Some buildings will ultimately be demolished.

Hopkins' first children's hospital, the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children, opened in 1912, exactly 100 years before the new children's tower will open. Is that a coincidence?

It is just a happy coincidence, but we are excited to celebrate our anniversary in our new home.

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