Duke Medicine Pavilion readies for patients

Jun. 07, 2013 @ 11:05 PM

Construction workers, doctors and nurses roamed the halls Friday at the new Duke Medicine Pavilion, sandwiched between the Cancer Center and Duke University Hospital emergency department.

A mixture of state-of-the-art intensive care equipment, family-friendly waiting areas and North Carolina artwork will greet the Pavilion’s first group of 120 patients July 27.

Duke University Hospital, now dubbed Hospital North, had to turn more than 900 patients away last year due to lack of space. The modern pavilion will add 160 critical care beds and 18 operating rooms.

The $560-million project adds 608,000 square feet to the hospital system and focuses on intensive care patients, to include transplant, cancer, back and spine, brain tumor and heart care. Once patients are moved to the new pavilion, Duke North will start to receive upgrades to better serve immediate-care and more stable patients, said Duke University Hospital President Kevin Sowers.

Sowers started with Duke Medicine in 1985 as a cancer nurse, and he said the patients they serve today are “a lot sicker than they were 30 years ago.”

To answer that need, they’ve built a facility based on high-tech, he said.

For example, the pavilion’s intraoperative surgical imaging capability moves a huge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine on rails between two operating rooms so that patients don’t have to be transported to the machine. It comes to them, and surgeons can see if a tumor is completely removed before a patient is “closed up,” said Shawn Subasic, Duke Medicine director of facility planning, design and construction.

The same goes for a computed tomography (CT) scanner, which can move from one operating room to the other to scan back and spine as well as trauma patients. Both machines are housed behind a garage-like door.

Subasic said this setup may be the first of its kind for North Carolina.

“More than likely, you’re going to see more of these” in the future, Subasic said. “We’re learning as we go along as well, which is exciting.”

He said the Duke Medicine team actually built mockups of patient rooms in the former Best Products warehouse near Hillsborough Road. Doctors and nurses had the chance to test out equipment and room layouts before they were physically constructed in the Pavilion.

Natural lighting became a big part of the building’s design, Subasic added. Floor to ceiling windows are found throughout the pavilion, and many overlook courtyards decorated with trees and shrubs.

The first floor houses a patient resource center, where family members can use computers and read magazines in a more intimate, quiet setting. An interfaith chapel gives both patients and family a place to reflect. And a new café will seat 70, indoors and out.

“Obviously patient care is number one, but we also focus on providing more care to the patient’s family while they’re here,” Subasic said.

Patient rooms also incorporate couches that turn into workspaces and beds for family members.

“If you look at a patient surrounded by equipment, there’s no place for a loved one to stay in the room or to sit,” said Sowers, the hospital’s president. “When you start to think about how patient family-centered (the building) is, it’s really an incredible step forward in terms of how we deliver care.”

Parts of the university also are imprinted in the pavilion’s design. Shapes on the floor resemble patterns found in Duke University Chapel’s infrastructure. The stone behind the entryway front desk is Duke stone, harvested locally from the Hillsborough quarry used for most of Duke’s stone buildings.

An outline of Duke University Chapel is frosted into windows, and North Carolina artwork, from Morehead City seascapes to rolling western farmland, line the walls.

The Pavilion is meant to transform the entire Duke Medicine campus, Sowers said. For Duke medical staff, this construction project has been 10 years in the making. Railroad tracks, the Bell Research Building from the ’40s and a coal line to what was then a Duke coal plant all had to be demolished.

When patients start to move in from the older, 30-year-old hospital, Sowers said, they’ll be moving into a naturally lit, high-tech addition centered on comfort. Sowers motioned toward the windows Friday and presented a sweeping view of Duke University’s historic buildings.

“They’re going to go to a waiting room, where they look out at this, and they’re going to say, ‘Why did you wait so long?’”