With much anticipation, the new Glen site of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) finally opened its doors in April 2015. The MUHC, located in Montreal (Canada), is one of the world’s foremost academic health centres, affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, and comprises four locations including the Glen site, which brings together the Montreal Children’s Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute, the Cedars Cancer Centre and the Research Institute.
We spoke to Elizabeth McPhedran, Communications Officer with the MUHC, to find out more about how the creation of this new super hospital presented a perfect opportunity to design for better health outcomes.
Q: How did the idea of the Glen site first come about?
Over twenty years ago the leadership team started to brainstorm and think about what the future of Montreal healthcare would look like. Because all the staff were accustomed to working in turn-of-the-century buildings where medical practices had outgrown the space in which they were performed, they were looking to build a very modern but also a very centralized and consolidated patient centric facility. The primary objective was to provide quality tertiary and quaternary care* services across the age spectrum, which is why we included the children’s hospital and the adult hospital in one building. And the whole idea was to bring all our services together to meet the present and the future needs of healthcare, so the building has room to grow at the same time as being able to provide quality healthcare right now.
They chose the Glen site because of accessibility. It’s much more accessible than say, the Royal Victoria Hospital that was downtown, and also because of its sheer size. So there’s room for expansion in the future. In 2020 we’re bringing over the Montreal Neurological Hospital, so that as well will be consolidated within the Glen site.
Q: Having children and adults together was a strategic move?
The idea of having the children and adults in the same building is to consolidate care across the age spectrum—we call it cradle to grave healthcare. A child is born at one hospital and is followed throughout their youth by doctors and then instead of having to go to a new facility they are followed in the exact same building. It’s a lot easier for physicians to collaborate with one another. We’re also consolidating a lot of our services now so staff can work together. For example, all of the operating suites are on the third floor, so the adults are right next to the children. This allows us to do things like for example a couple of months ago when we had our first mother-daughter kidney transplant at the new site. This consolidation of the adult and children hospitals allowed us to simply wheel the organ down the hall instead of having to harvest the organ at one hospital and transport it across town for surgery.
Q: Can you tell us about the multi-disciplinary team that designed the new site? What kinds of expertise were required? How did they work together?
There were many different teams that came together to build the site. As you can imagine, designing a building of this size is a bit of a Herculean endeavor. Hospital designers spent years before even designing meeting with experts to understand the options of the different spaces they could design. This was done in order to ensure the new space met with the latest standards in hospital care and scientific research. Among the different experts, 800 MUHC employees (clinicians, academics, researchers) from different departments were consulted in order to make sure that their new space reflected the environment that they needed to optimize work in their own departments in the new building. The architecture and urban planning team met with these clinicians to make sure that staff felt at home in their new environment. It was also an exercise in reflection and cooperation for different interdisciplinary groups to work together. The new building really has that MUHC touch, since it was designed personally by our clinicians to ensure that the space is a reflection of what they need to provide quality care.
Q: Can you give us a few concrete examples of design choices made specifically to improve patient health?
I think the biggest example at the Glen site is that we’re entirely made up of single-patient rooms. That’s 500 single-patient rooms—154 rooms on the paediatrics side and 346 on the adult side. This is leaps and bounds better for the patient and for the staff. The rooms are very spacious and each one has a large window that lets in a lot of natural light and has a beautiful view. Each room also has its own private bathroom, which means a lot more privacy. There is also a reclining sofa and chair in each room so that visitors can stay overnight more comfortably. The rooms are big enough to bring in medical equipment, instead of having to move patients to different floors for testing, which is a plus. And, the most important part is that studies show that single-patient rooms decrease the risk of nosocomial† infections spreading.