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New $198M, 94-bed Wis. hospital nears completion

Mayo Clinic Health System’s new hospital will have increased patient monitoring and communication systems

By Caden Perry
La Crosse Tribune

LA CROSSE, Wis. — Construction on Mayo Clinic Health System’s new hospital is entering its home stretch and is on track to open in the fall of 2024. On Tuesday, Mayo officials showed off the hospital’s new rooftop helipad and explained how the new facility will help the hospital remain flexible as healthcare technology advances.

As its exterior is enclosed, work has begun to finish floors and rooms in the new $198 million, 94-bed hospital in anticipation of patients occupying beds by September 2024. New energy systems, wireless patient equipment and 24/7 remote monitoring are all coming to the state-of-the-art hospital plans.

“We’ve been able to compress things into a much more efficient footprint here,” said Karen Finneman Killinger, regional chair of facilities for Mayo. “We’re helping with the overall flow. Doctors will be able to communicate with patient records with devices on the walls that are hooked up to many more systems.”

Systems built into the six-story building will allow staff to monitor patients with several levels of supervision. Wireless medical equipment will be the standard, with dedicated nurses taking watch over displays that can track all of a patient’s diagnostics without needing to be present in the room. This will speed up response time and time management with patients, Killinger said.

The wireless improvements also will help Mayo bring telehealth to the forefront of its care regimen. Telehealth has dominated the healthcare conversation since the COVID-19 pandemic and the new in-patient rooms are fitted to meet that demand. Patient room TVs will have full access to treatment schedules and offer virtual consultations from staff across the country.

The new rooftop helipad was completed last week.

“By moving the helipad away from all that traffic, we create a far safer environment,” said Todd Lepper, director of Air Operations for Mayo. “We’re far less likely to sandblast a car, less likely to knock someone over, and it’s a big investment in the safety of our teams.”

A service elevator near the pad can deliver patients from the helicopter to their required wing in the same amount of time as the previous ground floor landing area, said Dr. Jeff Jensen, chair of Mayo Clinic’s Ambulance Service Board.

To correctly size the service elevator, Mayo facilities coordinators taped out measurements in a conference room and had hospital staff practice taking patients in and out of the space. When it wasn’t quite right, they adjusted their plans.

“There’s only one other elevator this company has done that’s this big, and that’s at Mayo in Rochester,” said Kris Rubenzer, project executive for Knutson Construction. “It’s a giant 14,300-pound capacity elevator. Almost triple the size of a normal one.”

Nearly 200 workers have been building and fitting the new hospital around the clock for the past few months, with 30 more coming onto the site when finishing touches begin. New wings for labor delivery, intensive care, pre-operation and post-operation each have an overlook of the iconic bluffs on one side, with family waiting rooms facing the river on the other.

Hospital staff remained involved in planning for the construction. Doctors and nurses participated in virtual reality sessions with proposed room layouts to ensure patient rooms had optimal floor plans for nurses to work.

The design philosophy for the new hospital was to keep the wings loose and adaptable. Killinger said that as healthcare technology changes rapidly, hospitals need to be prepared to change just as quickly. Half of the top floor will house unused shell space that can be refitted into any use the hospital later sees fit to fill.

“It’s real. The excitement for our new standards and new hospital is very real,” Dr. Jensen said.

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