Spectrum Heart Tower Has Taken On Design Shape


    GRAND RAPIDS — Construction of the 274,000-square-foot Heart and Vascular Center at downtown’s Spectrum Health will start not near Michigan Street, the site of its massive curved glass facade, but to the west along Barclay Avenue adjoining the hospital’s emergency center.

    In fact, reports Architect George F. Lewis, vice president of the URS Corporation Health Group, the area completed in that early phase of construction ultimately will function as a part of Spectrum Emergency. It is to be a chest pain center: the place to which suspected heart attack victims will be taken for initial screening and diagnosis.

    And just like those patients who are, indeed, found to have cardiac problems that need some type of therapy, construction of the center will move eastward and upward from Emergency.

    In fact, the groundbreaking and the official start of construction on the main part of the center tower tentatively are slated for November, with occupancy schedule for April of 2004.

    One almost could say the center is to be shoehorned into place, with overhead walkways from the parking structures across Michigan and the Musculoskeletal Center across Barclay to be kept in place and functioning throughout most of the 18-month construction project.

    Lewis told The Business Journal that the functional design flow of the heart and vascular center evolved out of nobody-knows-how-many man-hours of meetings between architects on one hand and committees from nearly 18 assorted specialties in health care, administration, law and building operations and maintenance on the other.

    The decision to tie the chest pain unit — functionally anointed the Clinical Decision Unit — to Emergency arose out of such meetings.  So did the decision to devote the rest of the first floor to cardiovascular non-invasive diagnosis, plus stress-reducing sites such as a café and a family waiting center off the grand lobby.  

    Also having its own family waiting area (adjacent to yet another waiting area which the architects describe as child-friendly) will be the building’s second level, the site of the Cardiovascular Surgical Center, with six operating rooms and 19 pre-op and post-op patient rooms.

    Yet another family and child-friendly waiting area will be found on the third floor, the site of the cardiovascular intervention center, built around six catheterization laboratories, 24 patient rooms, and conference and consultation rooms.

    The fourth floor is the cardiac critical care unit with its 34 private patient rooms and, this time, no kid-friendly waiting area. This is the floor where all focus must be on patients who are recovering from cardiac surgery or cardiac episodes, or both.

    Lewis termed the floor’s clinical demands to have provoked some substantial architectural innovations. 

    The rooms exhibit patient focus in several ways new to cardiac care, including the need in emergencies to become an operating room.

    “If there’s a complication with a patient,” he explained, “the surgeons may need to re-enter the patient on this floor. So not only do we have crash carts positioned around the floor, but we also have re-entry carts. And if there is a code, a patient in failure, they can crack the chest right there in the room.”

    Among other things, he said, this level of patient focus demands: 

    •  Constant direct visual monitoring of patients, so that each pair of rooms has a common monitoring station, meaning skilled attention not only is on a dedicated monitor, but also is seated feet away from the patient, not scores of yards down a corridor.
    •  Polyglass corridor windows that instantly either can be dimmed to opacity or closed to view with Venetian blinds sandwiched between hermetically sealed glass panes (a protection against dust, one of the cardiac patient’s major enemies).
    •  Much greater room space to permit maneuvering by crisis teams with large pieces of equipment such as balloon pumps, dialysis gear and even a ventricular assistance device.

    The cardiac CCU also is to have four outlying nursing stations, a public waiting area, a private waiting area and a large conference room.

    Lewis said probably only a small handful of hospitals in the nation have adopted the decentralized monitoring stations URS has designed into the Spectrum cardiac tower’s CCU.

    “When we first started discussing this,” he said, “the closest one we could find, that the nurses were aware of, was in Washington State. There’s been one that recently came on line in Indiana, but it’s aesthetically and architecturally not nearly as nice as this.”  


    The fifth floor will remain vacant in the near term but available for long-term development, likely as a critical care unit.

    The sixth floor is to become a cardiovascular inpatient center. It will feature 46 private patient rooms, each again with a difference. Each room will have a window couch which can convert into a bed at night so that one loved one can stay with a patient around the clock.

    The center also will have a place where patients can walk laps and take a rest or meditation outside of what’s termed a healing garden: a fully enclosed two-story bamboo garden of the Japanese style with boulders and stone streams. Some patient rooms will open onto the garden, but the bamboo growth will be so thick that visitors and ambulatory patients will not be able to see into those rooms.

    The inpatient center also will have a family waiting room and a conference room.

    The seventh floor is to be office space for doctors and other professionals.

    Serving all the floors will be elevators which Lewis calls megavators: extra large lifts which can easily accommodate not merely patient beds or Gurneys but also life-support gear and all the people needed to operate it.

    Lewis explained that while infrastructure connections and some incidental walkways do exist between the heart and vascular center and the rest of the Spectrum complex, the center is physically and functionally almost autonomous.

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