healthcare

New $15M Emergency Department Gives Alvarado Hospital More Healing Powers

The new 21,000-square-foot emergency department building at Alvarado Hospital has 20 beds on the first floor with room to expand on the second floor

A fast-track emergency care section at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.
Courtesy of Alvarado Hospital

Alvarado Hospital Medical Center is soon opening a new $15 million emergency department built by Pacific Building Group.

Construction was completed in December with licensing of the new emergency center slated for January.

Built on a former parking lot abutting the existing hospital, the new 21,000-square-foot emergency department building has 20 beds on the first floor with room to expand on the second floor. It complements the hospital’s 12-bed existing emergency room.

Alvarado CEO Robin Gomez said the new emergency room was sorely needed to serve East County.

“We are sandwiched between two of the busiest ER’s (emergency rooms) in San Diego County, Scripps Mercy and Sharp Grossmont,” Gomez said. “To get a new emergency room of its kind was kind of a no-brainer.”

Demand for emergency services at Alvarado Hospital has risen sharply, with the number of emergency room visits rising by about 1,000 in 2019 compared with 2018, Gomez said. “We see more than 2,000 patients a month in our 12 beds, “Gomez said.

Certified Heart Attack Center

In addition to adding capacity, the new addition is an accredited geriatric emergency department, a certified heart attack center and a certified primary stroke center.

Becoming certified as a geriatric emergency department required some special modifications in the construction of the emergency room.

For example, the colors of the walls are contrasting shades of green to make them easier to see for elderly patients.

“Seniors see in yellow hues,” Gomez said. “If you have a lot of yellow, they’ll see a lot of monochromatic, so it’s difficult for them to see where a wall is.”

Lighting also is brighter.

Gomez, who has headed the hospital for eight years, said the need for geriatric care became apparent when she first toured East County and saw that the region had a high concentration of nursing homes and elderly residents.

“Geriatrics was kind of a given right away,” Gomez said.

The new emergency department also has two nursing stations and two negative pressure rooms in which air is vented directly to the exterior of the building rather than into the rest of the hospital, Gomez said.

The second floor of the new building is largely vacant for now, but Gomez said it will likely be used to further expand the emergency department or add other outpatient services.

Expansion of Alvarado Hospital’s emergency department follows a $2.5 million renovation of the hospital’s West Tower that was completed in November 2018, Gomez said.

Construction Challenges

Because of the nature of its services, construction of hospital buildings pose some special challenges, according to Jim Roherty, president of Pacific Building Group, and Gary Rhoads, senior project manager at Pacific Building Group.

“All the construction is much more stringent than what is typical and it’s all continuously inspected by a state licensed hospital inspector,” Roherty said. “There are also complex systems, an emergency generator, medical gas systems, air conditioning systems that provide much cleaner air and a cleaner space than you would have in a normal building.”

In the case of Alvarado Hospital,

“The uniqueness of the site and facility required seamless integration of subcontractors across diverse trades, from subgrade dewatering, uncommonly deep excavations, structural, electrical and framing to specialized trades such as medical gases, nurse call and medical IT (information technology) stations,” Rhoads said.

Built in 1972, Alvarado Hospital Medical Center is owned and operated by Prime Health Care Services, Inc., which acquired the hospital in 2010.

Based in Ontario, Prime Health Care Services was founded in 2001 by Prem Reddy, a physician certified in internal medicine and cardiology.

The company owns 46 hospitals throughout the U.S. and 14 in California, including Paradise Valley Hospital in National City which it bought in 2007, Gomez said. She said an affiliate, Reddy Development Co., also owns two medical office buildings adjacent to Alvarado Hospital at 555 Reservoir Drive and 6699 Alvarado Road.

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