'More like a home' than a hospital: Presbyterian's new Downtown tower is ready to open

‘More like a home’ than a hospital: Presbyterian’s new Downtown tower is ready to open

Dionne Cruz Miller, chief executive of Presbyterian Hospital, leads a tour of the new 335,000-square-foot patient care tower at the Presbyterian Hospital campus in Albuquerque on Jan. 19. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Ten years after its original conception, the fifth and newest tower in the Presbyterian Hospital complex Downtown is ready to open its doors.

The sprawling, 335,000-square-foot, 11-story expansion adds 144 beds for patients who need detailed care and monitoring, but do not need to be in the ICU. The additional beds bring the total to 600 for the entire hospital.

Local architectural firm Dekker/Perich/Sabatini was in charge of the tower’s design and Jaynes Corp. was tapped for the construction process. Around 700 people were hired for the design and construction of the tower, Presbyterian’s chief hospital executive Dionne Cruz Miller said.

The total cost of the expansion was $260 million; with $170 million going toward the construction of the actual tower and $90 million used for a new parking garage planned to accommodate the extra cars the new tower will eventually draw to the downtown hospital.

The way Miller sees it, the new tower represents “an investment in New Mexico, a commitment to the community.”

Patient rooms inside the recently completed tower at the Presbyterian Hospital Downtown each include brand new equipment for patients and staff. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Construction began in 2019 and was completed within the estimated timeline set by Presbyterian, even with the COVID-19 pandemic hitting soon after work began.

Miller said that although Presbyterian is always hiring new staff, additional staff will not be recruited specifically to run the new tower. Instead, workers will slowly be moved from other parts of the hospital.

One of the main reasons the new tower was conceived was a study from the University of New Mexico, which projected an increase in people 65 years and older moving to New Mexico for retirement. Presbyterian saw a need to expand its hospital capacity for long-term patient rooms.

Peaceful healing

All patient rooms are stocked with new equipment and furnishings such as lifts so staff will be able to move patients safely when required to do so. Bathroom and shower floors were made from materials that prevent slipping, ensuring patient safety.

Rooms are also adapted for any COVID-19-related needs, such as oxygen and enough space for patient isolation.

To make the new space feel more welcoming, special consideration was given to allowing an abundance of natural light.

Using materials that reduce sound and make each room a private space for family was “very intentional in creating almost a spa and healing-like environment with high quality, high standard materials,” Miller said.

Chairs and New Mexico artwork decorate the big lobby in the first floor inside the new 335,000-square-foot patient care tower at the Presbyterian Hospital Downtown campus in Albuquerque. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Every floor includes what Miller called “tranquility spaces,” consisting of open areas with seating and large windows overlooking the city’s west side.

There also are two outdoor gardens and a rooftop terrace, giving patients, family and staff places to get fresh air.

“Hospitals can be scary for people, so we’re trying to make it more of a healing space not only for our patients but also for the staff,” Miller said. “Our staff’s our family.”

Inspired by New Mexico culture

Local art was sought to bring life into each floor, with several themes that represent New Mexico’s culture and nature. Northern New Mexico mountains, White Sands and even low-riders are some of the themes reflected on each floor.

Everything from the furniture to the wall colors evokes New Mexico with its vibrant palette. According to Miller, special attention was taken in order to make it feel part of the state’s identity.

Most walls are full of paintings, photographs and “art that represents not only central New Mexico, but all New Mexico,” Miller said.

A gym inside the new patient care tower is available to use for all employees. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

Timeless design

Designers were looking to shy away from the traditional hospital designs from past decades because they tend to feel cold and uninviting. The new tower offers “a design that is more like a home than a hospital.”

Patient care, service quality and staff comfort were all considered in the design, according to Greg Everett, healthcare design manager for Dekker/Perich/Sabatini.

Details — from moving all hallway lighting from the ceiling to the walls to using special construction materials that ensure the least amount of noise from one room to another — were chosen to create a calm environment.

“At the end of the day in a hospital, they don’t want people to stay long, so doing things like creating calming spaces, pulling the lights to the side of the corridors, having giant windows in the rooms that take up almost the whole wall … help encourage the patients to get better,” Everett said.

A unique feature incorporated in the design of every room’s entryway is the inclusion of cabinets used to store personal protective equipment for staff members coming into the room. Everett said the reason was to provide every staff member with enough protection while avoiding overflow in the corridors.

It really is more than just beds, it’s trying to create a place that physicians want to come and work, Everett said. “That’s the way we want to help Presbyterian with this new facility and impact the community in a positive way.”

Kicking things off

Operations at the new tower have already started. Services like the laboratory, biomedical engineering and the physician lounges are functioning.

More departments and floors will be opening on a weekly basis over the next two months with the goal of making it seamless to the public, Miller said.

“It’s really a gift for the community, it creates more access to safer care,” Miller said.

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