A year ago, some 10,000 community members toured the grounds of the newly-constructed Stanford Hospital, admiring the gleaming seven-story building's soaring atrium, lush gardens and private rooms with stunning views.
But in a matter of months, the community and the nation faced the growing threat of the advancing novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
The hospital's added space, new technology and other innovations became crucial to managing the crisis.
"This state-of-the-art building was designed to enable our exceptional staff to do their very best under worst-case scenarios: mass casualty, natural disaster or even a global pandemic," Stanford Health Care President and CEO David Entwistle told me for my recent Stanford Medicine news article about the year since the hospital welcomed its first patients. "We didn't expect to be challenged so soon, but ... the pandemic has given us an unwelcome but powerful opportunity to prove what we're capable of."
On opening day a year ago, Entwistle shared this message with the Stanford Health Care community:
The new facility has, indeed, proved to be an adaptable and effective facility for handling the pandemic and, Entwistle said, a demonstration of exactly what the new building was meant to handle.
As architect George Tingwald, MD, AIA, director of medical planning at Stanford Health Care told me:
A lot of people asked us how we knew to prepare. Suddenly a pandemic came, and we were ready for it ... I had to remind people that this was the result of 15 years of planning. We hoped it wouldn't happen but it did. And we were very fortunate to have a new facility.
The 368-bed hospital building includes many design features that have helped protect patients and staff during the pandemic.
Early on, hospital planners decided to build only private rooms to minimize infection risk.
The plans also included a sophisticated new ventilation system, so rooms could be shifted to negative air pressure, which prevents infectious agents from leaving a space.
Additionally, the hospital's ample capacity meant it could convert an entire intensive care unit to COVID-19 care while making use of the existing hospital at 300 Pasteur Drive to separately house general ICU patients.
"As we put together protocols, the space really enabled us to create a very effective environment that was safe for our staff and our faculty," Helen Wilmot, vice president of facilities services and planning at Stanford Health Care, told me. "It would have been super-challenging to do that in the existing space."
The hospital's long-range plans also envisioned the possibility of converting the parking lot next to the Marc and Laura Andreessen Adult Emergency Department as an overflow treatment area in the event of major catastrophe.
In the spring, department staff members quickly turned the garage into a drive-up system for COVID-19 testing and screening.
People had their vitals checked through their car windows by nurses wearing protective gear, and they were able to use their mobile devices for a video conference evaluation by an emergency physician.
"Multiple departments in the hospital came together overnight" to get the system up and running, Patrice Callagy, RN, executive director of emergency services at Stanford Health Care, said in the article. "Everyone came together for this crisis."
For patients, including Dylan Thomas, 23, the new hospital building was a godsend. Thomas, who is immunocompromised because of several medical conditions, said he was grateful to have a private room when he was admitted to the hospital.
"In all my stays, I've never had to worry I would get COVID because of the private rooms," said Thomas, who has frequently required inpatient care. "I've always felt as safe as I could be."
Images by Steve Fisch Photography