Mountain View Voice

News - September 25, 2009

El Camino gives grand tour of its new hospital

Earthquake-safe facility is more spacious with better technology

by Kelsey Mesher

After seven years of planning and nearly $480 million spent, El Camino Hospital's new Grant Road facility is only weeks from opening its doors. On Tuesday, administrators gave journalists an early look at the place much of Mountain View will go to for its health care in the coming decades.

The new building is equipped with more hospital beds, new technology and is generally more spacious. It was designed to convey feelings of tranquility, with oval aesthetics and more natural light.

"It originally was a promise to the community that we would create an earthquake-safe hospital in Silicon Valley," said El Camino CEO Ken Graham, speaking to the assembled group of local media. "We have delivered on that promise."

The hospital, which retains its same address at 2500 Grant Road, was built primarily to comply with new earthquake safety standards, and Graham said it is one of the first in the Bay Area to meet the seismic safety law passed by California legislators in 1994. But the new building also will provide facilities that administrators hope are in every way better for patients, families and employees.

Despite the high costs of building the new hospital, Graham said El Camino would not immediately raise prices for patients.

"We haven't had an increase in price since June 2008," he said, adding that an increase is not expected for at least another year. "There will be no immediate impact on pricing."

Reinforcements and amenities

Designs for the new hospital were made with both seismic standards and the needs of the patient in mind. The building is comprised of two main towers, which are physically separate structures. According to Ken King, vice president of facilities services, there is a six-inch gap between the base of the structures, and a 14-inch gap between the fourth floors, to allow for movement should an earthquake strike.

Additionally, the building is enclosed in a four-inch "skin" wall that is designed to bend and move separately in case of a large quake.

The look and feel of the hospital is unified by ubiquitous ovals and circular designs, beginning at the main driveway with a large circular fountain and a labyrinth engraved on the floor of the building's entrance — the "heart," as some are calling it.

The labyrinth is a place where families and staff can "get away from the intensity of the care environment," King said.

The orange and blue colors of El Camino's logo are found in various shades, textures and designs throughout. The architecture of the building was meant to bring in more natural light, and many rooms have views of outside gardens.

The upgrade includes amenities for patients and their families like lounges, places to shower and places to use the Internet. There are over 300 beds in the new hospital, and 85 percent of patient rooms are private. Executives say this will make it easier for families to be in the room with a patient.

In the Emergency Room, King said, private rooms will help prevent the transmission of germs from patient to patient.

In addition to a more spacious emergency room, El Camino has added a short-stay unit for patients who may need extra monitoring in the 24 hours following their ER care. This will allow for better flow in and out of the ER.

High-tech upgrades

One of the most concentrated expenditures on new technology is in the radiology department, where there is new X-ray equipment as well as more advanced MRI and CT machines. Radiology at El Camino is completely digital. New technologies for the department took up about $20 million of the $70 million total spent on new technologies for the hospital.

"We had physicians and nurses from every work group, working with designers," said Dianna Russell, chief clinical operations and chief nursing officer.

Russell said, for example, that larger operating rooms will provide ample space for surgeons and are "built for the future and new equipment that is yet to be designed."

She said nurses helped design headboards in patient rooms to make outlets, computers and other necessary amenities easily accessible. The state-of-the-art hospital beds have, among many features, a built-in translator that helps nurses communicate to patients in 22 languages.

Other advancements for the hospital include electric ceiling lifts, robots that carry medical supplies, and bedside computers with real-time medical record processing.

Children's floor

Longtime partner Lucile Packard Children's Hospital will run its services on the top floor of the new building. Designs in that unit of the hospital include more primary colors, carpeted floors and classrooms and activity areas for children who are staying for longer-term treatment.

Hospital executives and staff are counting down the days to the ribbon-cutting on Oct. 3. Even after that, moving all services to the new hospital and getting staff trained will take over a month.

"Part of our everyday job is to plan for the unexpected," Russell said. "This is just on a little bit bigger scale."

According to hospital spokesperson Judy Twitchell, the old building is going to stay up for two to three years, with the first and ground floors used for outpatient and support departments. The second through sixth floors will be quartered off.

"After that, when we get a new multi-specialty building completed" in the next two to four years, she said, "then the old hospital will be demolished."

Graham said that after the Los Gatos project and the completion of the new campus, some staff members will be ready for a break.

E-mail Kelsey Mesher at


Posted by Mark E, a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 26, 2009 at 1:23 pm

Congratulations to the ECH executives, staff and volunteers on the launch of their new facility. I have seen the work being done and previewed the hospital rooms of the future and believe the residents of Mtn. View will be well served for many years to come as a result of this project.

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