Photograph by Don Nolte

Photograph by Don Nolte

July 2014

Remodeled San Francisco General Hospital On Schedule for 2015 Opening

Fran Moreland Johns

San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center is on target to celebrate its formal opening in late 2015. The remodeled facility will consist of a nine story, state-of-the-art hospital with an emergency room nearly triple the size of the old space, upgraded medical facilities and patient-centered details, such as infection-limiting private rooms with televisions, Wi-Fi and beautiful views.

So far the project is scheduled to be completed on time, with few complaints from nearby residents—who have endured years of construction turmoil—and with virtually no disruption to health care service. In 2008 the project secured financing through Proposition A, with a hefty 84 percent of San Francisco voters authorizing City support. Groundbreaking took place on October 22, 2009, when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom joined a host of dignitaries and neighbors to symbolically put shovel into dirt. 

“We will definitely invite the neighbors, as soon as the date for the official ribbon-cutting is set,” said SFGH Rebuild public relations director Tristan Cook. Keeping nearby residents and businesses engaged and informed has been a central part of the project, according to Cook. “We’ve had two community meetings per year, tables at fairs and a regularly circulated newsletter,” she said. “One thing that’s frustrating to me is that sometimes I would really like to bring someone in and show them what’s happening, but because of safety regulations I can’t do that.”

“We will all be happy when it’s done, the campus is available and flow assured,” said Robert V. Brody MD, SFGH’s chief of the pain consultation clinic, who has also served as chair of the ethics service. “But there’s no question about the continuation of services. They have done a fantastic job of maintaining services throughout the entire construction period; trauma, emergency, clinics, all services have continued without interruption.” Dr. Brody believes the worst of the construction chaos is over. “We used to have palliative care conference in one of the rooms overlooking the construction; it was so noisy that we had to move. But we’re back in our old room now and it’s much improved.”

The warmly welcoming Women’s Options Center, which sees several thousand women annually, went through a separately-funded renovation several years before the current rebuild began. Inside the WOC there’s no hint of the construction turmoil that’s been constant for the past few years. According to the Center’s Dr. Eleanor Drey, no one has had trouble finding her way to the facility.

It’s been another story for the Barnett-Briggs Medical Library on the first floor of Building 30. The library has been constantly moving and adapting throughout the construction; “but we’re still in business,” said library director Stephen Kiyoi. The library offers a wide range of educational services, including classes, materials ,and 16 public computers through which anyone can access health information. “We partner with the San Francisco Public Library,” Kiyoi explained, “trying to advocate for health literacy for all. And while the construction has been disruptive—construction always is—we have stayed open throughout.”

On a recent sweltering afternoon, a young woman, Raquel, passed two construction workers taking a break on a construction barrier just outside the main lobby, exchanging a few words in Spanish. Raquel has lived in the Mission for more than a decade, during which she’s given birth to one child at San Francisco General, visited the emergency room once and visited friends being treated there three or four times, including the occasion of her visit that day. “It’s not hard to find your way around,” Raquel said, of the construction; “but I guess I’ll be glad when it’s done.” 

The newly rebuilt hospital, occupying the block between 22nd and 23rd streets, will have its main entry off 23rd Street, with pedestrian access from Potrero Avenue. The $887.4 million construction cost will result in both an improved ability to deliver high-quality health care services and some operational cost savings. The new facility will use 40 percent less water and 21 percent less energy. The hospital will have 284 beds, an increase of 32. For patients, staff, and visitors alike, a seventh floor rooftop garden will offer a retreat space with greenery and fresh air. And for those concerned about earthquakes, the entire building incorporates the most seismic resistant design known today, including its ability to glide 30 inches in any direction.

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