What price, good health? In the case of Sonoma Valley Hospital, about $44 million.
The facility’s new wing has an enlarged emergency care center, and, upstairs, a surgery center, that offer not only state-of-the art equipment but also a contemporary philosophy about healing.
The new facility symbolizes what CEO Kelly Mather calls “my mission,” the transformation of a hospital as a place of doctor-driven treatment to one of patient-led healing.
She arrived on the job in time to steward the design process. (First step: no patterned scrubs. The building was ugly, she reasoned, but at least the medical staff would look neat and professional).
Into the structural expansion were added what Mather calls the seven elements of a healthy environment: color; natural light, comfort; low clutter; access to nature, through plants or a view; art; and music or sound.
If the list sounds more like a spa getaway, that’s the point.
“Patients are coming to a place that will help them on their health care journey,” Mather said.
The upgrade of the emergency room from five beds to nine is more than a question of capacity, for example. The increased space allows for the first time a triage station, where patients are assessed before moving into, most likely, a private room.
Now the subtler elements take effect. Each room has a glass door, easily closed for privacy. The rooms are arrayed around a large desk area for staff; they too are behind glass, to minimize the sound level but keep the focus on the patient.
The wider working and walking areas make the new ER far more efficient than its predecessor, said Dr. Robert Cohen, Chief Medical Officer. As the one-time Director of the ER, he recalls the cramped and chaotic feeling of the old unit, when overflow patients would be on gurneys in the hallways.
The new wing is far calmer. “It’s almost like church,” he said, “a sense of reverence. It helps care-givers focus on the patient.”
The improvements are less about hardware (“We always had the highest quality equipment,” Cohen said) and more about the ultimate software – the interaction between doctor and patient.
Cohen notes that the atmosphere – designed for efficiency and to lower stress — is beneficial to the staff as well. “It heals both ways.”
Mather said she allowed herself a deep breath of satisfaction after the facility opened, but went right back to, among her other duties, fundraising for the hospital’s $22 million “phase two.”
Because phase one came in $300,000 under budget, she can also work on her “nesting list, the things you want but don’t absolutely have to have,” in putting the final touches on the new wing.
Meanwhile, she likes what she sees. “I’m so proud of what was accomplished.”
Facts and figures: Sonoma Valley Hospital’s new Emergency Department and Surgery Center
Sonoma Valley Hospital Surgery Center