The history of its five-room biocontainment unit dates back a decade, when the 519-bed, Omaha hospital applied for a grant to turn an existing patient-care unit into a specialized isolation unit that could be used in the event of a bioterrorism attack.
Nebraska Medical Center received $1 million in federal funds in 2004 and asked Leo A Daly, a local architecture, planning and engineering firm, to design the unit. The firm had worked on other renovation and remodeling projects for the hospital.
In some ways, the task was straightforward: the unit was located on the periphery of the hospital and had access points for staff and supply deliveries. “They could control and secure it, so to speak,” said John Andrews, healthcare design leader at the firm.
But the design team went to work on creating a space that could be easily sterilized and where certain laboratory tests could be performed on-site. Leo A Daly replaced the mechanical and electrical units to install a state-of-the-art air filtration system. Ultraviolet lights added extra germ-killing protection and a pass-through autoclave allowed instruments to be sterilized in the unit. Finishes on the furniture, floors, walls and other surfaces needed to be durable for heavy cleaning.
Two weeks ago, Andrews returned to Nebraska Medical Center to ask for additional feedback on how the unit was performing. The answer was promising, but with some modifications.
The hospital had initially envisioned a five-room unit that could accommodate up to 10 patients. But the challenge in treating Ebola patients is handling the volume of infectious bodily fluids that can be expelled daily—about 10 to 12 liters per day. Some of the rooms, therefore, have been designated for waste storage, Andrews said, significantly limiting the number of patients who could be treated at any given time.
Still, Andrews said, “I'm convinced that it works as it was intended.”
Nebraska's project cost in the range of $650,000 to $700,000 for a unit that was already self-contained but needed state-of-the-art upgrading.
Andrews said he expects interest among other hospitals to grow, and added that as recently as this week, a Texas facility reached out for more information on Nebraska Medical Center's unit.
Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher