[UPDATE Thursday, Jan. 24, 1:25 p.m.]
The grand opening of the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown is about three months away, and workers are busy at the Navy Yard site preparing the building for hospital staff and patients.
On Jan. 12, the team received their temporary occupancy certificate and last week several of the patient beds were delivered—the first of many pieces of furniture and equipment to arrive.
Located at the corner of 16th Street and First Avenue, the new $220 million, 300,000 sq. ft. medical facility will replace Spaulding’s current building at 125 Nashua St., Boston. The new building will allow Spaulding—part of the Partners HealthCare System—to continue serving people who are recovering from and adapting to a range of issues including spinal cord and brain injuries, strokes, amputations and burns.
The building tops out at just over eight stories (the ninth floor houses mechanical equipment) and features private rooms for up to 132 patients, including 12 in the pediatric unit, as well as outpatient services.
Recently, Rebecca Kaiser, director of government and community relations for Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, led Charlestown Patch on a private tour of the new building. Follow Patch through the building by clicking on the photos in the gallery above and read through some of the hospital’s special features as outlined below.
Located on the first floor, the hospital cafeteria will be open to the public as well as to staff, patients and families. Cafeteria hours are tentatively set for 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., so Charlestown residents could drop in for a morning coffee, lunch or otherwise. There will also be an outdoor dining area with picnic tables for use in warm weather.
“We’re hoping to be one of the first hospitals to apply for the Michelle Obama Healthy Food Financing Initiative, so we’ve already begun some of that process and we’re really hoping to go full force when we move to the new site,” Kaiser said.
One feature the Charlestown location offers that the current hospital does not is a therapy pool. Located on the first floor, the large pool is kept at around 98 degrees Fahrenheit and offers space for individual therapy sessions as well as therapy classes that will be open to the public, Kaiser said.
“You can do different sorts of therapies for, say, a spinal cord injured patient in the water and still really activate the limbs and have people move around more versus things you can do on the land,” she said.
The room includes special lifts for wheelchair users as well as a smaller resistance pool.
Large windows make up more than half the wall space in the therapy pool room, and surprisingly the steamy temperature of the room does not obscure the amazing waterfront view with fog. Instead, the windows are built with multiple panes separated by a few inches of space, designed to vent the warm air and keep the windows clear.
The first-floor conference room will be available for use by community groups, for lectures, meetings and other activities. Spaulding is still working out the details of the reservation process.
The room holds a total of about 100 people if seated classroom-style, and it can be split into two separate rooms, with a mostly soundproof wall between and projectors and screens available on both sides.
“I’ve already been getting interest in the community for meetings and things,” Kaiser said of the conference space.
Other First-Floor Amenities
The hospital’s ground floor also houses its main entrance and elevator bank. The elevators connect to the underground parking area, which features about 200 parking spaces—including 40 handicap spaces—but visitors will have to check in at the main desk before accessing the upper floors.
Along with using the cafeteria and conference room, the public can access first-floor restrooms, a gift shop and an adaptive technology center, where they can buy items such as leg braces and wheelchair equipment. There is also a meditation room on this floor.
The second and third floors both feature large “gymnasium” spaces that will include therapy tables and specialized exercise equipment used for outpatient services as well as patients staying at the hospital.
The rest of the second floor features outpatient services and physician offices, while the third floor is mainly research space and administrative offices.
Floors 4-8 of the new Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital house patient rooms. Each floor has a central reception area similar to the central nurses station of the previous hospital; however, the new design features smaller stations between sets of rooms to bring the patients and staff closer together.
“One of the other features here is really trying to get away from the centralized, ‘fish bowl’ nurses station and trying to decentralize it all and keep caregivers with the patients as much as possible,” Kaiser said. “So in between every patient room you’ll see the computer station with access to charts rather than people having to go back to a computer behind the desk or move a cart along with them down the hallway. This is something that the teams are excited to learn how to use and operate.”
Around the reception area is space for signage and digital screens that will feature daily schedules, cafeteria menus and other information.
Color blocks on sections of hallway flooring are functional as well as visually interesting—helping patients to track their progress as they learn to walk and go through other therapies.
Unlike the current hospital, where rooms are double, all the patient rooms at Spaulding’s new location are private, with individual bathrooms.
“The direction that rehab has moved in the last several decades, we’ve seen that there are infection control issues that really limit being able to share rooms effectively, so we often end up with semi-private or private rooms in our current hospital and lose bed capacity because we need to adjust for those types of specific patient needs,” Kaiser said.
In addition, rehabilitation equipment has grown over the years, so the large individual rooms provide more space for those pieces, she said.
The rooms feature items specifically designed for rehab patients, many of whom are in wheelchairs and have limited mobility. The closet poles are lower to the ground, the sinks and soap dispensers are motion-activated, and a lift system built into the ceiling runs from over the bed all the way into the bathroom.
All patient rooms are lined with large windows with excellent views of the harbor and city architecture, and many of the doors are frosted to allow natural light to come in.
“We’re hoping we’ll actually be LEED Certified Gold by the time we’re open, which is harder to do with hospitals than with some other sorts of office buildings because there are so many infection control and safety issues,” Kaiser said. “A lot of it is about maximizing the light and trying to use natural light as much as possible, but also designing the windows so the sun isn’t glaring in patients’ eyes.”
Having learned from the unfortunate experiences of other hospitals during Hurricane Katrina, the architects of the new Spaulding project designed it so the building’s mechanical systems are not located in the basement but on the ninth floor.
The recent Hurricane Sandy and its effects on facilities in New York further underlined the importance of that design.
“[Hurricane Sandy] definitely reinforced that we were making smart decisions, since those types of occurrences seem to be happening more and more across the country and, being on the water, the chance that that could happen here is not as small as maybe in other locations,” Kaiser said.
In addition, the new hospital’s windows can all be opened in an emergency—a necessary safety feature that became apparent during Hurricane Katrina when hospital staff in Louisiana had to break out windows that couldn’t open to evacuate patients. The windows could also be opened to improve air circulation if the hospital’s ventiliation system went down during a emergency, Kaiser noted.
The architects also planned for a rise in sea level of 3 feet over the next 100 years, figuring that into the design of the building’s foundation.
Spaudling Rehab patients will be moved from the Nashua Street location to the new Charlestown building on April 27, and grand opening events are scheduled for the weekend prior, April 19-21.
At the community open house, currently set for April 21, there will be health screenings, information about outpatient services, hospital technology and rehab programs and details on reserving the available conference space.