Kaiser Permanente set to open new Redwood City medical center with seismic-safety upgrades, patient service improvements 

click to enlarge COURTESY OF KARL SONKIN
  • Courtesy of Karl Sonkin
Kaiser Permanente is putting the finishing touches on a new high-tech medical center adjacent to its existing facility on Veterans Boulevard in Redwood City that incorporates updated state seismic-safety requirements.

Originally scheduled to open Dec. 17, the new hospital is expected to begin operations a day early, according to Kaiser Permanente Senior Vice President and San Mateo Service Area Manager Frank Beirne. It will be the third replacement facility Kaiser has opened this year to address the seismic-safety standards, with its Oakland and San Leandro campuses also housing new, more earthquake-resistant buildings, Beirne noted.

The seismic upgrades are required under Senate Bill 1953, a state law originally passed in 1994 that mandates increasingly higher standards of earthquake durability, according to Kaiser spokesman Karl Sonkin. Still, the regulations did not require that Kaiser replace its Redwood City hospital.

The existing building could have remained in service with seismic retrofitting, Beirne said, but Kaiser decided it made more sense to construct a new state-of-the-art facility. The 280,000-square-foot building is seven stories tall at its highest point. Most of its 149 beds are private, and all will have access to an information network that goes beyond free wireless Internet service, hospital officials said. In addition to being able to watch on-demand movies, patients will be able to message the hospital’s environmental service teams if their rooms need to be freshened up, and they will have the opportunity to order meals whenever they want, from a hotel-quality menu, officials said.

By allowing patients to order food they like when they want it, the new system gives guests a greater sense of control over their experience, Beirne noted.

“In an environment that doesn’t typically give patients a lot of control, it puts control back in the patient’s hands,” Beirne said.

The facility’s information system is connected to a 42-inch screen in each patient’s room, and in addition to allowing patients to play games or watch doctor-selected videos relevant to their care and treatment, the screens also replace the erasable whiteboards traditionally used to keep staff aware of relevant patient information.

“You won’t see a doctor walk into a room at Kaiser Permanente carrying a clipboard,” Beirne noted. “Everything is digital now.”

Other features of the new hospital include a greatly expanded emergency department, new labor, delivery and perinatal units with private rooms, a regional center for neuroscience, and three radiology suites for performing image-guided procedures. Among other improvements designed to enhance patient comfort include windows with natural light for all patient rooms, spacious private rooms with pullout beds for overnight family visits, a meditation garden, and visual imagery to promote wellness and healing.

Regarding Kaiser’s South San Francisco campus, Beirne said that the facility is in full compliance with all current regulations, and any future seismic-safety upgrades there probably won’t involve the type of dramatic changes seen in Redwood City. As for the Kaiser hospital on Geary Boulevard in San Francisco, Beirne said he couldn’t comment on any potential changes because that facility is not within his purview. He also declined to comment on the cost of the Redwood City project.

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