The new coronavirus pandemic did not stop completion of three years in construction, nor the celebration of the new $550 million replacement Saint Louis University Hospital. A socially distant ribbon cutting was held on September 1.
During the last weekend of August, 250 patients were moved from the legacy hospital to the new facility, located just down the street at 1201 S. Grand Blvd.
“Our mission is to provide exceptional healthcare services, revealing the healing presence of God to those we serve,” said Laura Kaiser, president and CEO of SSM Health. “Having a state-of-the-art facility such as this is enabling us to be able to do just that.”
The new hospital’s Emergency Department opened August 30 with an expanded Level I Trauma Center, to meet the growing critical care needs of 75 outlying partner clinics and nearly 50,000 patients annually, within a 250-mile radius across Missouri and Illinois.
The SLUCare Physicians Group moved from two Midtown facilities into the new Center for Specialized Medicine at Grand and Choteau avenues on August 31.
Steven M. Scott, president of SLU Hospital, said the new 802,000 square-foot facility has 316 private rooms with smart boards that identify staff who come in the room and what role they play in the patient’s care and conveniences accessible by the push of a button.
“They have a remote control that, for the most part, will control their entire room environment – temperature, the television, any entertainment that they might want to dial into,” Scott said. One of Scott’s favorite amenities allows patients to order their meals when they are ready to eat.
“In the legacy hospital, you sort of ate at our schedule, oftentimes wasting food, and oftentimes that food might arrive when you might be, for instance, away at a procedure,” Scott said.
Kelly Baumer, vice president of Clinical Services, said the hospital’s interventional platforms – operating rooms, radiology suites, catherization labs, endoscopy suites – are co-located.
“Then we have one big area – prep and recovery – where our patients who have either surgery or a procedure will come into one very nice, lovely area, will get ready for their procedure, we’ll take them back to have their procedure and recovery after that,” Baumer said.
The hospital has floor-to-ceiling windows to pour in lots of natural light, a conference center that will be available for community meetings, a healing garden, and art by local artists.
“It really helps to tie this facility closer to our own community, which was an objective and a guiding principle, reinforced long ago when we were authorized to move forward with this project,” Scott said.
The hospital’s sophisticated technology and design support and elevate its academic-medical partnership with Saint Louis University School of Medicine.
“The students, the medical trainees and the faculty will be working in really outstanding brand-new facilities with state-of-the-art equipment, new technology,” said Dr. Robert Wilmott, dean and vice president of medical affairs, SLU School of Medicine.
While COVID-19 did not halt construction of the hospital, the pandemic demanded some retooling for health and safety precautions.
Scott said what the hospital had to modify because of the pandemic has been fairly extensive, including setting up wellness stations, striping for social distancing, and removing chairs. And, of course, everyone working and visiting must wear a mask. Baumer said there is a lot of plexiglass installed and other modifications to minimize risks to patients, employees and visitors as well.
During the pandemic, the new hospital’s visitor policy remains with COVID-19 restrictions. Patients are allowed one designated support person for the duration of their stay. However, compassionate-care exceptions can be made.