Peg Gagne, the hospital's director of medicine for psychiatry and oncology, demonstrates the new tablets all patient beds in the Miller building will be equipped with. Photos by Brandon Arcari, Vermont Business Magazine.
by Brandon Arcari, Vermont Business Magazine The University of Vermont Medical Center will open its new Miller inpatient building June 1, making available hundreds of new beds in private rooms to improve patient privacy. The project, costing an estimated $187 million, is the first major upgrade to the Medical Center’s inpatient facilities since the mid 1980s, adding 128 new patient rooms. Patient privacy upgrades mean that almost 90 percent of patients will have a private room with a bathroom, as opposed to the prior 30 percent.
On opening day, about 120 patients will be moved into the building out of 128 total rooms, according to Dawn LeBaron, vice president for hospital services.
The new rooms are around 340 square feet and are organized into three zones. A full private bathroom with shower, a recliner and pullout couch that allows family members to sleep, and an area to allow care team members room to wash their hands and handle charts at the bedside.
Despite adding over a hundred new beds, the hospital isn’t actually adding much more capacity, as it is shifting from double to single-room occupancy, starting with the new Miller building, but also renovating old rooms to make them more like the new building. Despite the project’s cost, patient rates are not expected to rise at all.
There is a potential for a slight uptick in capacity, as double rooms sometimes could not be used for two patients due to infection risks, while single rooms do not have that same issue.
“This is the result of several years of intensive, collaborative, inclusive facility planning and design,” LeBaron said. “What we know from evidence and we certainly know from feedback, is that single room occupancy is better for the patient, for the family, and certainly delivers better outcomes.”
Named for donors Robert E. and Holly D. Miller, the project also features a number of new technologies intended to improve patient care, including bedside tablets, electronic “whiteboards” and dynamic glass.
The dynamic glass, installed by St. Albans Glass Co., automatically lightens and darkens with sunlight intensity, reducing heating and cooling costs. As part of its plan, the building is targeting a LEED Silver certification, and used recycled concrete and recycled blue jeans for insulation.
The certification, an application for which will be submitted in June or July, according to Dave Keelty, the director for facilities planning and development, will likely take about a year to confirm. The building is projected to halve the energy costs of a normal hospital.
St. Albans Glass also worked on both Jeffords Hall at UVM and the Central Campus Residence Hall (CCRH), which faces the new hospital building.
Bedside computers, another key component of the new space, are intended to help maximize communication with patients.
Dr Frank Ittleman, UVMMC.
“Access to a computer close to the patient’s bedside is central to the overall design,” said Brianna Kim, the program manager for the Miller building. “It makes it easier for the care team to be responsive to patient needs in real time.”
A large portion of the work on the project came from Vermont, 87% of workers on the project are Vermonters, 76% of the companies involved are Vermont-based, and the value of the contracts to those companies is $73.3 million.
Construction involved purchasing an acre of land from UVM, demolishing old dorm buildings, and replacing the emergency department parking lot.
Dr. Steve Leffler, the interim president of the UVM Medical Center, said that medical students will also benefit from the new space, citing new collaborative rooms that will be available for students and care teams alike to coordinate care without even having to leave the floor.
“This is a seminal change in the way that we’re going to be able to administer care for our patients,” said Dr. Frank Ittleman, a professor and cardiothoracic surgeon at the Medical Center. “As a clinician, I couldn’t be happier.”