(Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles, originally appearing in the Daily Local News, depicting the new features and the new technology incorporated into the expansion of Chester County Hospital.)
WEST CHESTER, PA - It almost doesn't feel like a hospital.
One step inside the new $300 million expansion of Chester County Hospital, and visitors are greeted with a lobby featuring natural light, cushioned sofas, a Bistro and panoramic views.
Even patients will get a visual experience unlike any other hospital in the region.
"Through our windows you’ll see some of the best views of Chester County," said Michael Duncan, president and CEO of Chester County Hospital. "In any one of these rooms you can look over Chester County as far as the eye can see," he said while standing in one of the hospital's new 99 private patient rooms.
"And when the leaves are turning, it's a fantastic picture."
Designed by Ballinger Architects, the entrance is purposefully separated from the busy Emergency Department entrance for a tranquil approach.
And the new 35,000- square-foot green roof has hills and valleys and even sculptures. The main entry court, located across from the hospital’s free 700-space parking garage, boasts living landscapes featuring meadow gardens of grasses and wildflowers. Asters, Bee Balm, Little Bluestem and other species native to Chester County will attract pollinators and birds, bringing color, life and seasonal change to the meadow gardens.
Researchers from Penn's Urban Health Lab have found that access to green views is associated with improved general mental health, reduced mental fatigue, and improved coping with stressful settings - potentially making a hospital garden the perfect prescription for families of patients who are ill or injured.
The green roof also substantially reduces rainwater runoff. These features, plus the building materials used and other factors, contribute to the project’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification.
Attention to detail was not only placed on sustainability and environmental factors – it was also placed on patient and visitor safety and comfort. For example, a lot of hospitals have a small lip in the floor for patients to navigate when going from their bed to the bathroom, but the European-style bathrooms and curbless showers are seamless in Chester County Hospital's new 99-bed private patient tower.
"The level of thoughtfulness that we put into this construction will have benefits for the members of Chester County and its environment," Duncan said.
Those 99 private rooms have large windows with expansive views of the green roof. There are family lounges at the end of every floor, and each room has an overhead bed lift to make lifting patients safer and more comfortable.
When all phases of construction are completed, there will be two outdoor courtyards. A ground-floor courtyard serves as an extension of the lobby with places to sit under a canopy of Ginkgo trees. There's two conference rooms and a modern elevator lobby looking out into the courtyard. At the upper level of this open-air space, private relaxing spaces will be filled with color and the fragrance of perennials to create a healing garden for calm reflection for both patients and their visitors. The upper level will be complete by the end of next year.
Larry Bell, senior project manager for the expansion and renovation, said a lot of thought went into the design process to ensure maximum visitor experience.
"In terms of the construction we're employing some measures to maximize the use of a range of recycled material, from the steel to ceiling tiles to the furniture," he said.
A certain number of spaces in the new parking lot will be designated for staff who carpool. A large area of that lot will be pervious pavement, which will enable more rainwater to infiltrate the ground and, in turn, less to be shed by the campus. All of the lighting fixtures in the expansion and renovated Emergency Department will be LED and the plumbing fixtures, water-efficient.
"We have a facility that matches our reputation and allows us to grow, but we believe our culture is our strategic advantage, and we are focused on taking our culture into the new space," Duncan said. "It's designed to provide an intimate, personal healing experience, and I am thrilled for the members of this community. I'm also excited to see employees who have been with us for 24, 30 or even 40 or more years move into this new facility."
Tomorrow: A decade ago, most cardiac surgeons would have scoffed at the idea of repairing a heart valve through a tiny nick in the groin and then sending the patient home the next day without a single stitch. Today, that once-improbable procedure -- known as Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR -- is not only a reality, but an increasingly common alternative for patients too sick or frail for open heart surgery. Learn More! >>
Related Information from Chester County Hospital: