After Senate Bill 1953 became law in 1994 requiring that all hospitals meet certain seismic standards, the board at Loma Linda University (LLU) Medical Center initially planned to modify the existing hospital buildings.

But retrofitting the three classic cloverleaf towers, which had been built in the late 1960s, became increasingly challenging. So in 2010, that strategy changed and the hospital board approved the construction of a new hospital and the expansion of the LLU Children’s Hospital tower.

From that point on, the board procured contracts with design firms and the appropriate partners and began all the site preparation for construction — a phase known as “make ready” in the construction industry.

It would take almost six years to break ground on the primary construction project.

Smaller ancillary projects, including the construction of parking structures, and a significant retrofitting of the entire utility plant to meet the new standards and to increase the capacity of the utilities that feed the hospital, were all done first.

Since 2016, the main focus has been the building of a very long and complex project, totaling nearly a million square feet.

Much of the structural complexity is due to the fact that the whole building “sits on 126 base isolators, which allow the building to accommodate the movement during a seismic event, as opposed to resisting the force with strength,” said Eric Schilt, vice president of planning, design and construction at LLU Medical Center.

The building “is engineered for optimal building safety and is designed to withstand a major earthquake,” according to the LLU Medical Center’s website.

On April 28, LLU Medical Center received its certificate of occupancy; this means the hospital may now pursue licensing for the facility from the California Department of Public Health.

Main hospital

The new medical center will house all services now held in the round towers. It also will include a much larger operating room capacity, with the adult capacity doubling from 10 to 20 rooms, and an increase in intensive-care unit beds. One of the most significant changes is that the rooms in the existing towers are mostly for double or triple occupancy. The new hospital rooms will be fully private.

Other highlights include increased cardiovascular labs for heart procedures, new nursing stations throughout each floor, state-of-the-art surgical facilities and perioperative space for pre-operative and post-surgical recovery. It will also have a chapel with 60 seats and private rooms for quiet prayer, a healing garden and family lounges on every floor.

When combining adults and pediatrics, the new hospital will have about 440 licensed beds.

An underground tunnel and pedestrian bridge will provide hospital connection between the two towers.

It takes two years of planning but only one day to move all patients over from the existing medical center buildings to the new one. Once vacated, the idea at this time is to use the former hospital for other outpatient services. But because logistics require that noncompliant and compliant buildings operate completely separately, the board is still determining the strategic needs and renovations required to use the space effectively.

Children’s hospital

The expansion of the children’s hospital, which was built in two phases between the mid-80s and mid-90s and meets current structural standards for inpatient care, will bring many anticipated children’s services to Loma Linda as well.

An adult unit housed there will relocate to the medical center, leaving room for more pediatric intensive-care unit beds.

A few highlights of the Children’s Hospital Tower include the new San Manuel Maternity Pavilion, which will house existing mother and baby services in addition to private patient rooms for comfortable family-focused labor and recovery, a well-baby nursery for newborn care and monitoring, and high-risk patient rooms to treat high-risk pregnancies and postpartum complications.

New inpatient rooms with private rooms for children, overnight space for parents and a school room so children can keep up with school work will also be added. A children’s cardiovascular lab and a separate pediatric emergency department are two of the major new services. The pediatric emergency department will mean shorter wait times and less exposure to public health risks while waiting for treatment, according to the hospital’s website. Maternity patients seeking emergency care should also use this department rather than the emergency department at the main hospital.

“Our mission is to continue both the healing and teaching ministry of Jesus Christ,” said Schilt.

Doing that requires more space to accommodate students, residents, teachers and the eight schools that all use the hospital to learn. The new building is going to sustain LLUMC and create the foundation for inpatient care for generations to come, he added.

“I am excited that soon we will open our state-of-the-art adult hospital, launching a new chapter in how, together, we offer outstanding patient care. For all of us, our new home will be a place to continue to impact lives in a beautiful, healing environment,” said Kerry Heinrich, CEO of Loma Linda University Health hospitals.

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