Mountain View Voice

News - September 17, 2010

El Camino's plans for old hospital on hold

Recession has held up new 'multi-specialty building,' officials say

By Nick Veronin

El Camino Hospital's plan to for its old main hospital building have been set back by at least one year, hospital officials said.

According to Ken King, the hospital's chief administrative services officer, the hospital had always planned on renovating or replacing the northern addition of the old main building after construction was completed on the new main hospital. However, the economic downturn has slowed those plans, King said.

Originally, King said, a handful of departments were scheduled to remain in the old main hospital for 18 to 36 months. All or most of the old building would then be razed, and a new "multi-specialty building" would be built on the site of the former old main northern addition. Or, the current structure would be refurbished.

That plan has been pushed out at least four years, King said.

Currently, the old main stands mostly empty. A few departments, mostly outpatient and support services, remain on the first and ground floors.

"We've joked about it being a ghost town," said Barry Johnson, a registered nurse working in the endoscopy department on the first floor of the old main. He noted that a ripped painting remains hanging on a wall in one of the first floor hallways. "I'm surprised they haven't removed it. It doesn't look great."

Most of the hospital staff and patients spend their days next door at the new hospital. Much of the decor that used to line the halls has also moved. Some walls bear pockmarks from nails that supported photos and paintings. A poster tapped to a door reads, "Artwork has been removed from this location for placement in the new hospital."

But jokes aside, Johnson doesn't feel alone in the old main building. He said that there are other people around and that the endoscopy department is "like family."

Johnson said he even enjoys the extra space and the quieter atmosphere, now that the majority of the hustle and bustle has moved next door. For now, Johnson doesn't mind being in the old main so much. "We'll have more rooms than we used to and larger rooms," he said.

"The only negative is when we have to bring a patient to or from the new hospital, it's a long trip," he said.

Patients often need to be transported between endoscopy and the post-anesthesia care unit, or PACU. A trip from Johnson's unit to the PACU used to take about 30 seconds when the two departments were down the hall from one another. It now takes at least five or six minutes — a long time if a patient is in critical condition. "I don't like being isolated when you're having patients getting powerful medications and complicated procedures."

Chris Ernst, a spokeswoman for the hospital, said that El Camino is fortunate to have completed the new main building when it did, as other hospitals in the region and throughout the country are struggling to make ends meet in hard financial times.

Johnson said that ultimately his biggest concern is patient safety. Putting aside his department's distance from the PACU, he said the old main is "not beautiful, but it's functional. As long as it's functional, it's good enough."

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