Alberta Children’s Hospital sets a new standard in family-centered care

The new Alberta Children’s Hospital (ACH), which opened on September 27, 2006, has become an instant design benchmark thanks to its unique child-friendly design approach. From the design to the daily operations of the new facility, the hospital is helping to set a new standard in family-centered care; care that offers the ideal patient and family experience, creating and delivering one of the most advanced pediatric care hospitals in North America.

Located in Calgary, Alberta, the hospital is the first freestanding pediatric facility to be built in Canada in more than 20 years. Nearly half a million patients, ranging from newborn babies to 18-year-olds, are expected to be cared for at the hospital which serves southern Alberta, southeastern British Columbia and southern Saskatchewan.

As Prime Consultants for the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Kasian Architecture Interior Design and Planning Ltd’s challenge was to design a hospital that was user friendly and could accommodate future advances in health care. Kasian, along with the project partners visited children’s hospitals across North America to study the design, operations and functionality of other health care centres. The overriding theme from the benchmarking tour was the sense that hospitals had been designed from an adult’s interpretation of what children would like.

The project team set out to design and build a hospital which is unlike any other children’s hospital in North America, and received input from the very same people who would be using or visiting the facility regularly. To meet the needs of patients, parents and health-care providers the team used a collaborative design process, by collecting input and feedback from children and their families, and hospital user groups. This facilitated the design of the new hospitalÑfrom the initial concept, exterior and interior plans, and colour selection to the types of gardens.

“We were impressed with the maturity and self confidence of Kasian in its understanding and ability to change the initial conventional and rather too institutional draft scheme to reflect the desires of the user groups,” said Bob Holmes, senior vice president planning and capital development at the Calgary Health Region.

The result of the design process is a world-class care facility that is focused on the patients and one that helps to reduce anxieties while offering comfort and support to families who are going through difficult times.

Key features of the new Alberta Children’s Hospital include:

  • Design collaboration with patient and family advisory groups as well as the construction manager and major contractors;
  • A highly functional and efficient building system that separates the hospital operations into three main areas: the Ambulatory Care area, which includes medical offices and clinics; the Inpatient Unit (IPU) tower and the Diagnostic and Treatment block; each with its own structured mechanical systems;
  • Family-friendly inpatient rooms that provide pullout beds, internet access, a privacy curtain, wardrobe and a full en-suite with a medical cabinet for toiletries for patients and their families;
  • Covered, heated parking to accommodate large vans and allow for easy horizontal transfer directly into the hospital;
  • Flexible design to easily accommodate advances in medical equipment and technology including intraoperative MRIs and Smart ORs;
  • A master plan allowing for the future lateral expansion that avoids disruptions and eliminates the need for shutdown during construction;
  • Operating rooms (OR) with windows and motorized black-out blinds for laser surgery;
  • Trauma elevator with direct access between emergency, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and ORs. Large enough to accommodate the patient and a full, code-blue trauma team;
  • Art studio and fully integrated radio and television broadcast system for patient use;
  • A special pet visiting room which was designed as a separate vestibule with two entrances, one from inside the hospital and one from outside the hospital – the pet never enters the hospital and the patient never leaves the safety of the hospital environment; and
  • Simplified check-in through one central desk.

Kasian worked with the numerous hospital stakeholders including Calgary Health Region, the Alberta Children’s Hospital, Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, as well as The Institute for Family-Centered Care, EllisDon Construction, and its managers, sub-consultants and contractors. Together, the project team formed a culture of collaboration which will serve as a model for future projects.