Throughout a two-hour tour of the soon-to-be open Helena Theurer Pavilion, the $714.2 million addition to Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health officials gushed over the state-of-the-art features, which they feel make it the most technologically advanced hospital in the country – not just New Jersey.
The nine-story pavilion, which will begin taking patients in the final weeks of the year, includes 24 operating rooms, 50 ICU beds and 175 medical/surgical beds to go along with 72 post-op beds and 225 individual rooms.
But that’s not what makes the building special or unique.
Here’s a look at 10 things we saw during the tour:
- Patient rooms
It starts with the 65-inch televisions — which do so much more than provide entertainment. They serve as germ-free message boards for staff. And they serve as a telecommunications portal to the outside world, so patients can more comfortably talk with family and friends who are unable to visit.
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Those who can visit will find couches (that come with a reading light for quiet times) that pull out into a bed (for those wishing to stay overnight).
Patients also are provided with a tablet that enables them to control the lights, the shades (all rooms have New York City views), the temperature — or even order their food or contact their nurses.
Want more? Each room has a ceiling track which leads from the bed to the private bathroom. Patients can wear a harness, which enables them to practice their mobility — as well as make their way to the bathroom with minimal assistance. There is an in-room patient lift system that reduces the risk of falls, too.
In the ICU wing, there is dedicated CT imaging, enabling patients who require frequent imaging to be able to do so with limited travel.
The rooms also have a double door for their supply closets — allowing them to be refilled without entering the room (an essential during the pandemic). In addition, there are portals on the wall that allow IV tubes to leave the room, allowing them to be changed without someone entering the room — another infection-control feature.
- Surgical waiting/post-op areas for patients — and families
Mark Sparta, the chief hospital executive of HUMC and president of the Northern Region of HMH, said the system understands that the families of those having surgery need attention, too.
Who built this?
A look at three people that oversaw the design and construction of the Helena Theurer Pavilion:
- Edward Christian, project executive, Stantec (in Rochelle Park);
- Erik Polyzou, project manager, RSC Architects (in Hackensack);
- Peter Cornet, project executive, Blanchard Turner (in Hackensack).
“We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve had a loved one who’s having surgery,” he said. “It is probably one of the most anxiety-ridden times in our lives. So, we wanted to give family members the opportunity to have as little anxiety as possible.”
The pavilion has waiting areas — like you would see in a hotel or hospitality establishment, Sparta said. Families have the ability to lock up their personal belongings should they want to get something to eat or take a walk. They also have access to a business center area, complete with computers and Wi-Fi.
When patients come out of surgery, they will head to one of the 72 prep and recovery bays — all of which are private rooms (with walls, not a pulled curtain). The rooms have areas for family members to sit, too.
It’s comfort — and safety, Sparta stressed. And it puts the pavilion on par with any surgical center in the country, he said.
The Helena Theurer Pavilion has set up a sterilization zone on each of its three operating floors — a literal red line that prevents movement back and forth. This includes the instruments. Once they are used, they are sent downstairs (on their own elevator) to a huge room (directly under the operating room floors) where the sterilization process begins.
The instruments never leave the zone while they are in use — nor do the carts they are carried on (which also get sterilized after each use).
“Once they’re behind the red line, they’re behind the red line for their entire useful life,” Sparta said. “This is the most state-of-the-art instrument sterilization area that I think you will find in the New York metro area, if not across the entire nation.”
The emphasis on sterilization is everywhere. There are hand-washing stations built in by the entrances to the red zone (emphasizing the obvious), electronic sign boards by patient rooms (eliminating charts and signs that can gather and retain germs) and staircases that only run between the two operating room floors.
Sparta is determined to cut down — if not eliminate — the thousands of annual hospital fatalities that are caused by infection. Even the walls of the operating rooms are best in class. They are made of Corian — a porous-free surface that makes it easier to clean and harder to gather germs.
“We’re able to clean all of our operating rooms much more effectively than anyone has been able to in the past,” Sparta said. “A lot of thought and investment went into this facility to provide the safest patient care possible.”
- The size of the operating rooms
The rooms are approximately 800 square feet, or nearly double what is considered standard size. Dr. Howard Ross, chair of surgery/surgeon-in-chief, said he’s blown away.
“These absolutely massive rooms are a gift,” he said. “This is like driving a Ferrari. It’s a magnificent place to be.”
Ross said the increased space not only allows for more equipment and larger teams, but it provides a more comfortable working environment.
“You can take a deep breath; you can stand up tall,” he said. “I think it really is an optimal environment to work.
“We spend most of our lives in the operating rooms. We spend far more time in the ORs than we do at home. Having a room like this, that’s comfortable and beautiful and modern, has to lend itself to better satisfaction.”
- Technology in the operating rooms, part 1 (screens and live streaming)
To be sure, these are not the first ORs to have cameras and screens, but the number of them and the size of them — and what they will enable the surgeons to do — is next level.
There are cameras built into many of the components, including the OR lights. And some of the screens have the capability to do live streaming.
Ross said the collaboration possibilities are impactful.
“We can theoretically be educators to trainees around the world,” he said. “They can be fully trained surgeons, they can be residents, they could actually be high school students taking a course.”
The teaching could go both ways.
“We can project images and we can receive images as well,” he said. “So, theoretically, if the future brings interoperative consultation, we will be ready and able to perform.”
In the present, surgeons can easily see images from pathology. Instead of a phone call detailing the findings, there can now be a video chat with both parties looking at the images. Ross said that impact is huge.
“The opportunity to educate and to provide really cutting-edge care, is here in this room because of the screens,” he said. “We can project images: CT scans, MRIs. If you want to know what the patient looked like in their workup, then you can look up on the screen and you have it. This is really world-class.”
The operating rooms also come with green LED lights that provide enough soft light to both care for patients and view the screens easily and without glare.
- Technology in the operating rooms, part 2 (interoperative MRI)
An intraoperative MRI room has been placed between two of the operating rooms for neurosurgery.
“It’s the only one you’ll see in New Jersey, at least for the foreseeable future,” Sparta said. “We can perform neurosurgery on two different patients, both of which, at one point or another during their surgery, may need an MRI advanced imaging scan.
“The ability for our surgeons to have real-time imaging capability allows them to be much more precise in their surgical technique and to be able to do things that, up until this point, they haven’t been able to do.”
- Technology in the operating rooms, part 3 (robotic surgery)
Dr. Michael Stifelman, the director of robotic surgery (and chair of urology) said the hospital will have six advanced da Vinci robotic surgical systems, including one single-port system, and four orthopedic robots for joint replacement procedures.
It’s a matter of the best getting better, Stifelman said.
“Hackensack University Medical Center has the largest robotic program in New Jersey, multiple times over,” he said. “In fact, our single-port program is the largest program in the entire Northeast. So that means that people from all over the country and the world want to see us.
“We do more complex robotic surgery than any other program in New Jersey, hands down.”
Stifelman said robotic surgery is more precise — it feels as if the surgeon is using four hands instead of two, enabling them to work in the smallest of areas, he said. It also can be done with fewer (and smaller) incisions — which leads to fewer infections and faster recovery times, Stifelman said.
“Some patients go home that day,” he said.
The new operating rooms — and the commitment to robotic surgery — are a dream scenario for surgeons, Stifelman said.
“Hackensack sees the future of digitizing surgery, using AI and machine learning to make our surgeons better,” he said.
- Negative pressure capability
This was one of the most important medical advances during the pandemic, as it allowed air to be pulled out of the room as opposed to being recirculated. Hospitals around the country found ways to do this on the fly (HUMC knocked out windows and essentially replaced them with fans).
The Helena Theurer Pavilion will have advanced duct work in each room, allowing officials to have each room, wing or floor have negative-pressure ability, as needed.
“Most hospitals have a few rooms designated on each patient care unit to be able to offer negative pressure for patients that have respiratory illnesses,” Sparta said. “This building now has the opportunity to completely flip to all negative pressure and exhaust all of the contaminants outside, rather than keep them inside.”
HMH CEO Bob Garrett said this was a must for the pavilion.
“Even if that expense took us over budget, given what we went through during COVID, what all hospitals went through during COVID, it would be worth the additional expenditure to make this a negative-pressure hospital,” he said.
There are dedicated elevators for patients, for service workers and for those sterilizing equipment. It’s a way to help the hospital stay safe in two ways: It minimizes cross-contamination — and it keeps those with bad intentions out. Many elevators only can be accessed through card-control mechanisms. All visitors come through one lobby area.
“This is where we control access,” Sparta said. “It’s how we really prevent bad actors or people with nefarious ideas from getting upstairs. It was really important for us to be able to protect our patients and our team members.”
Recent incidents at hospitals across the country have shown the need for this. The pavilion was ahead of the curve, Sparta said.
“We planned for that from the very beginning,” he said. “Historically, hospitals have been really hard to secure, because they have many different access points. But we really were deliberate in designing this building so that there was a pinch point here — so that the only way individuals would get upstairs was to get through this area.”
- Employee breaks rooms
Forget about what you’ve seen on “ER” or any other medical shows. The break rooms on the Helena Theurer Pavilion have plenty of light, plenty of comfortable seating — and kitchenette facilities to help staff have a quality meal.
“It’s great to have a place where you can relax and refresh,” nurse manager Megan Weinman said.
Sparta said caring for staff was an important goal.
“Taking care of the people who are taking care of the patients was a top priority for us,” he said.
So, what do you do after creating a hospital that is as state of the art and technology advanced as any other in the area? You do it again.
When the Helena Theurer Pavilion opens at the end of the year, many patients and surgeries will be moved to the new facility from HUMC — a 781-bed facility that has approximately 42,000 admissions annually.
This will give HUMC officials the chance to bring some of these advancements to the existing campus, Sparta said.
“To have 225 new patient care beds in this building gives us the opportunity to move the surgical patient care that takes place in the existing building over here — and we can then go back and renovate, expand and modernize all the patient care rooms in the existing hospital,” he said.
“It may not be that way tomorrow, where we have the same experience with the same type of patient rooms in the existing hospital versus here, but we will get there. It’s our commitment to provide the same standard of care.”
Ross can’t wait. For the new pavilion to open — and for the existing hospital to be updated.
“I think it’s going to revolutionize New Jersey medicine,” he said. “To be able to work in this building is an absolute gift.”