2 UCSF design leaders on transforming the hospital into a place of healing

Elizabeth Polek, vice president of new hospital planning at University of California San Francisco Medical Center, and Stuart Eckblad, vice president of major capital projects for UCSF Health, want to make the Northern California medical center, ranked No. 9 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report, more than a hospital.

"We think of this hospital as a place for healing, and so our inspiration is really around that," Mr. Eckblad told Becker's Jan. 13. 

UCSF unveiled its architectural plans in December 2021, which featured a new tower to be built on the medical center's Parnassus Heights campus. The tower will connect two existing towers and will increase capacity from 475 to 682 beds by 2030. In 2019, 3,000 patients were turned away from UCSF due to capacity issues, a challenge that is expected to increase due to the region's aging population, the health system said.  

"When you walk our buildings, you might think that they're outdated," Ms. Polek said. "They are not as efficient. It's harder for us to recruit and retain people. In our current environment, we aren't able to accept all of the patients that need us. And so I'm very excited that we will expand in our capacity to deliver the kind of care that we do best, and that we will do it in an environment that is on par with the level of care provided now and into the future."

Capacity is not the only issue the project's design team, which consists of 170 members, wants to address. The anxiety that has plagued patients, families and hospital staff over the last two years due to the pandemic has also served as inspiration. 

"If you look at the images, you can see how we are trying to integrate it into the hillside," Mr. Eckblad said. "We've tried to change the scale to a more residential scale and really open it up and make it light and airy, so that families and visitors and staff feel that they're at a place, not just a hospital."

Construction on the new tower is expected to begin in 2023.

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