Rush University Medical Center designed to treat infectious threats and bio-terrorism
A visitor would expect to see the latest weapons in the battle against heart disease or cancer at the new Rush University Medical Center.
But the hospital — which will give the public a sneak preview Dec. 10 — is also stocked with an arsenal for fighting a different kind of “bad guy” — namely a viral villain.
The 14-story tower on the Near West Side will bring an unprecedented level of preparedness to Chicago in the event of a bioterrorist attack, a deadly pandemic or an industrial accident sending hazardous materials seeping into the streets, experts say.
“Wow … this is just like the movies,” whispered one nurse during a recent tour of the new ER, now able to handle a surge of casualties in a full-scale disaster.
The Tribune recently accompanied a group of Rush employees as they previewed the $654 million facility. Funding was raised through a mix of donations and city, state and federal grants.
As the group surveyed the almost football field-size department, words like “biological agent” and “medical countermeasures” were casually tossed about.
The ambulance bays can convert into a large decontamination room. A surveillance system can track disease as it spreads across the city. Pillars in the gleaming new lobby look plain enough, but they’re equipped with hidden panels for easy access to oxygen and other gases.
Before patients can be moved there in January, hundreds of staff must be trained on all-new equipment — from a state-of-the-art patient lift to a trash chute that travels at 60 mph.
Like a giant white butterfly looming over the Eisenhower Expressway, the new tower — designed by the Chicago office of Perkins + Will — will add 304 new adult and critical care beds, bringing the hospital’s total to 664 and making it one of the largest medical complexes in the area.
Still, it was the new ability to potentially handle a pandemic that was the most compelling aspect of the tour — and something that couldn’t have been envisioned when parts of Rush’s old ER were built more than a century ago.
Each innovation sparked references to movies like “Outbreak” and the more recent “Contagion.” That medical thriller was based on a real-life virus in South Asia that traveled from animal to person, mutating along the way into a highly contagious pathogen.
But this is no Hollywood fantasy, explained Dr. Dino Rumoro, Rush’s chairman of emergency medicine. Americans need only look back to the anthrax attacks of 2001, followed by the SARS epidemic of 2003, to know such a worst-case scenario is possible.
“We know that the vast majority of U.S. emergency rooms are still woefully unprepared to deal with CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear and explosive) injuries,” Rumoro said. “We’ve seen the evil people can do … and we can’t look away.”
It’s a viewpoint shared by numerous other scientific and national security organizations. In 2007, a congressional task force called the nation’s inability to recognize, respond and recover from a biological attack “a significant failure,” blaming the lack of urgency on everything from turf battles to funding constraints.
Rumoro has played a role in those national discussions, as well as the planning of the McCormick Foundation Center for Advanced Emergency Response. Three components make Rush’s ER one of the best-prepared in the nation to handle the next major infectious challenge:
• The scope and flexibility of its infrastructure, including 60 treatment bays that can be doubled to treat above and beyond the normal patient load and include public areas like the main lobby, which — thanks to those hidden panels — can accommodate even more beds.
• The ability to decontaminate large numbers of patients.
• The capability to isolate an entire quadrant, switching the airflow and pulling any killer viruses outside, high above street level, where they can’t be inhaled by humans.
“The ERs of the past are focused on traumas, colds and broken bones,” Rumoro said. “But we’re prepared — not just for bioterrorism, but for the kind of infectious and pandemic diseases that can overwhelm any hospital,” he said. “It’s a whole new era.”
Of course, most staff will never encounter such a scenario. They must be prepared for routine procedures: How do you send samples to the lab? Turn on the TV? Operate the patient lift?
Even such everyday tasks are different in the private rooms more typical of a four-star hotel. Rather than visitors dozing on a chair or cot, they can now sleep on a fold-out, Euro-style couch that can accommodate a 6-footer. The expansive windows offer breathtaking views of the city skyline, filling the room with natural light. The wireless call system is expected to shorten staff response time.
thanks to intrigued for the link..
“The 14-story tower on the Near West Side will bring an unprecedented level of preparedness to Chicago in the event of a bioterrorist attack, a deadly pandemic or an industrial accident sending hazardous materials seeping into the streets, experts say.”
posted for posterity..
“The capability to isolate an entire quadrant, switching the airflow and pulling any killer viruses outside, high above street level, where they can’t be inhaled by humans.”