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Cardboard Models Inform Design of New Hospital in Newport

By Tricia Schug

Wander into the vacant former restaurant building just south of Newport, and you may think you’ve entered an alternate universe. Cardboard lines the walls, opening to separate rooms, which look strangely familiar. These cardboard rooms, complete with cardboard cabinets, sinks, toilets and monitors, are built-to-scale, architect models of patient rooms, procedure space, surgical units, and more. These models are helping providers at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital (SPCH) visualize what their new work spaces will look like when the new hospital is constructed.

Over the past several months, patient care teams have toured these rooms, scrutinizing every detail to help architects finalize the design for optimal workflow and patient care. Staff members have examined details, such as whether a wheelchair has enough space to turn around, if outlets and equipment are rightly placed, if storage space is adequate and much more.

“Our patient care teams have been very involved in helping design the new hospital, which has been great, because their perspectives and insights are critical to building the most efficient, safe, patient-centered facility,” said David Bigelow, CEO at SPCH.

Architects first began meeting with SPCH clinical staff early in the design process to better understand their workflow, equipment, space needs and wish-lists before rendering designs. After a design is tweaked, the cardboard models allow staff to walk through actual rooms and visualize whether or not their ideas will translate into efficiency and safety. 

During a recent “mock-up week,” 64 employees toured the rooms to offer feedback. They shifted cardboard sinks and cupboards and practiced using them to determine the best layout. They pushed wheelchairs around rooms looking for potential blockages. They mused over outlet locations.

“Fortunately, we are at the point where we are receiving only minor, nuanced changes to the design rather than major problems,” said Jason Brown, Senior Pre-Construction Manager with the Neenan Company, the architect firm leading SPCH’s project. “Mostly, people have been very positive about the design and the amount of space they will be getting in the new hospital.”

Models will continue to be used in the weeks ahead as the design phase of SPCH’s new, three-story hospital wraps up, hopefully, by mid-April. Construction is expected to begin late May or early June.