Monday, August 27, 2007

Healthy Building

Healthy Building
New Hospital Constructed With Well-Being Of Patients, Environment In Mind
By Shelly Meron/Business Writer

Construction is still under way at the new Kaiser hospital site in Vacaville. The facility will open in spring of 2009. (David Martin Olson/The Reporter)

Many Kaiser Permanente patients in northern Solano County may already be excited about the opening of a new Kaiser hospital in Vacaville in the spring of 2009. But what they may not know is that the new medical facility is being constructed with "green" building materials, and will incorporate organic food and a farmers' market.

Kaiser spokesman Jim Caroompas said building the $500 million hospital with green materials is part of Kaiser's mission to keep patients healthy.

"We take the health of our community and environment as seriously as the health of our individual members, and that's because a healthy environment helps lead to a healthy person," he said. "All this can be done. You just have to have the willingness to do it, and Kaiser Permanente has the willingness to be a good steward of the environment as well as of our members' health."

The new facility will have 150 beds with private rooms, each painted with low-emission paint that contains less chemicals, and furnished with PVC-free, rubber flooring instead of the usual vinyl.

"It's far less toxic and it's easier on our staff, who are on their feet all day," Caroompas said of the rubber flooring.

He added that the less-toxic flooring used in the hospital is a whole new product, made especially for Kaiser. Since they initially couldn't find the flooring material they wanted, Kaiser officials approached several manufacturers and asked them to produce a PVC-free flooring product that would work for the hospital.

"It's the first in the market," Caroompas said. "It will probably turn out to be the standard in the industry."

The hospital building also utilizes a co-generation plant that will generate electricity for the hospital by capturing heat produced while heating water, reducing Kaiser's need to buy electricity. Then there are the reflective roof tops, painted in light colors so that they reflect - rather than absorb - sunlight and keep the building cooler.

Caroompas said Kaiser is also trying to improve the overall atmosphere by bringing "the outdoors in," using an interior courtyard and lots of windows.

Kaiser is trying to "get that feeling of outdoors into the facility so that it doesn't feel as institutional," Caroompas said. "When it opens, it will have a very natural feeling to it."

Other elements include recycled water, which will be used to water lawns and landscaping; recycling old ceiling tiles; sensored lighting that will turn on when someone walks into a room, and turn off when no one's around; and reusing asphalt from an old parking area for paving at the Vacaville facility.

And in another effort to be environmentally-friendly, Kaiser plans to buy organic food from local, small farmers that will be used to feed patients. Kaiser also plans to hold a weekly farmers' market at its facility - a successful program that's already in use at several of its other facilities.

Kaiser makes an effort to use and promote organic produce not only for the sake of small farmers, who Caroompas said are struggling to compete with larger, agro-business type operations, but also because it is better for patients.

"People decide how to eat and how to behave, but we like to give them options and educate people on the choices that they have," he said. "We say, 'This is what this great food looks like' and it's affordable, and we want to make it convenient."

There's also a bit of luxury in the new hospital: Each room is equipped with a private bathroom with shower, a flat-screen television, and a sofa bed for visitors.

The facility will also include a brand new pharmacy, ambulatory surgery center, and offices for as many as 60 specialty physicians. The hospital will also be equipped with Kaiser's HealthConnect electronic medical record system, which allows Kaiser doctors to view a patient's medical record no matter where they are seeing a doctor, as well as have real-time access to x-rays and the patient's prescriptions. Patients will also be able to e-mail their doctors with questions or concerns, make appointments online and refill prescriptions online.

Most importantly, Caroompas said, Vacaville-area patients will have a full-service hospital close to home.

"We're really excited about being able to provide members in northern Solano County with a state-of-the-art facility that is much needed," he said. "I think they're going to be very happy with what they see inside."

Contact Shelly Meron at

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