Seismically updated Mills-Peninsula Medical Center set to open doors 

Some 200 patients will be moved into the new $618 million Mills-Peninsula Medical Center later this month, one hospital bed at a time.

The hospital is finalizing plans for a tightly choreographed opening-day move of all of its patients and staff from the original 1954 Peninsula Medical Center, which will be torn down, to the new hospital down the hill.

Every three minutes, a patient will be wheeled in his or her bed across a covered pathway to the new building, with doctors and nurses alongside, said nurse Cathy Rosaia, the leader of the group planning the move.

That includes mothers in labor, patients on ventilators and other “very, very sick patients,” Rosaia said. “We have to make sure they’re safely transported.”

The patients moved to the new building will be receiving treatment in the first of several new Peninsula hospitals designed to make it through the next major earthquake.

Sandwiched between the columns of the new hospital building and its foundation are 176 stainless steel, puck-shaped bearings that allow the 450,000-square-foot structure to shift up to 30 inches in any direction during a temblor.

That means the six-story building could withstand up to an 8.0-magnitude earthquake hitting the San Andreas Fault and could still operate “off the grid” for up to six days, said project manager Larry Kollerer.

“We would have a building that would ride through that earthquake basically untouched,” Kollerer said. “We are doing this to replace an existing facility that would not fare very well.”

When the 241-bed hospital officially opens May 15, it will mark the completion of the first of several major San Mateo County projects to bring local hospitals in line with state seismic requirements passed after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The patients will be in the only hospital on the Peninsula to use so-called base isolation construction — also found in the new International Terminal at SFO — as other hospitals are taking a different approach to meeting seismic requirements.

The new $240 million Sequoia Hospital pavilion, set to be finished in late 2012, uses 40- to 50-foot soil nails drilled into its Redwood City hillside, said Chuck Sierer, area manager of design and construction for Catholic Healthcare West.

“We are sitting on a fairly significant rock that our building is tied into,” Sierer said. “We have a very different site, if you will, than what Mills’ is.”

Sierer said he’s confident that the old Sequoia Hospital building, which is getting a seismic retrofit to be up to new codes, can also survive a big earthquake.

“This old building has been through every bit of shaking that’s happened since 1951,” Sierer said. “The building was built hell for stout. It is a very robust concrete structure.”

Cutting edge

6: Stories in the new Mills-Peninsula Medical Center
450,000: Square feet in new hospital building, including one unfinished floor for future expansion
241: Beds in new hospital
50,000: Emergency department visits expected per year in new hospital, up from 35,000 in old hospital
809: Spaces in parking garage
2006: Year construction started
2030: Year all hospitals must be operational after a major earthquake

Source: Mills-Peninsula Health Services

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