Walking through the gleaming new hallways, inspecting the state of the art equipment and monitors of the new emergency/trauma and surgery building at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in January, Dr. Timothy Van Natta could not stop smiling. As the interim chief medical officer of the hospital, he remembers the challenges of performing heart surgery or operating on a gunshot wound in the cramped spaces of the old hospital, built in 1963.
In April, however, his entire staff will be working in the new facility, which was constructed and finished on time and $10 million under budget. The expansive 190,000 square-foot facility features separate adult and pediatric emergency departments with a total of 80 treatment rooms, seven trauma resuscitation rooms, 16 operating rooms, and pre- and post-operative patient areas — significantly more than the capacity of the older facility.
“The people of the county who receive their healthcare here are going to have a much, much better experience than they have had in the past,” said Van Natta, noting that the ER has approximately 80,000 visits per year.
The new building also has a radiological suite that includes x-ray, ultrasound and CT technology housed directly in the ER so patients do not have to be transported across the hospital for diagnostic tests. The new facility forms one part of a larger, more holistic approach to healthcare that emphasizes prevention. With the Affordable Care Act, patients have more choices, so county facilities had to keep up to be competitive, noted Delvecchio Finley, chief executive officer of the hospital.
“For a long time county facilities have always been competitive on quality of care…but where we struggled a little bit was on the service side…Buildings like this, really provide a healthcare experience that complements the quality of care,” said Finley. Lastly, he noted that part of having a better patient experience includes aesthetics, so the new hospital has a vast collection of donated art hanging from its walls that is both soothing and pleasing to the eye.
The new hospital which was under construction for three years, has long been a priority for Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents the district where the hospital is located.
“This is a commitment on the part of the County of Los Angeles to deliver high quality emergency and trauma care in this new health care reform era,” the supervisor told a crowd of more than a hundred physicians, nurses, hospital staff and elected officials on the inauguration day. “This is a day to celebrate.”
For some patients, the new hospital is just the icing on an institution that already had excellent patient care. In December 2012, Richard Williams’ 13-year-old son Ricky was stabbed in the heart. Doctors gently warned Williams that it would be touch and go, but after several hours of surgery, Ricky was saved.
“This new building means a lot to me,” said Williams. “It signifies not only new technology, but also how many other families will be saved here.”