Sumter Regional Interim Hospital

AmericuAmAmericusAmericus, Georgia

Stegenga + PARTNERS
project photo credit:Walter Elliott

March 1st, 2007 in Americus Georgia, a class F4 tornado smashed into the Sumter Regional Hospital; April 1st, 2008, the first patient was admitted into the Sumter Regional Interim Hospital. In a mere 13 months this facility was programmed, designed, drawn, and built, returning high level healthcare to a community in need. This is the first time a full service, interim community hospital was completed with the speed of urgent response. Sumter Regional Interim Hospital is a testament to the urgent response and collaborative design process of highly effective and compassionate design, construction, and healthcare professionals.

This is the world’s first flat pack steel-module-built community hospital. The Interim Hospital was a FEMA and GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) funded project; FEMA brought forward the flat pack structural modules. These pre-fabricated modules are primarily utilized by military logistical support and emergency response housing. The modular system has been used to provide emergency housing following Hurricane Katrina, but the modules had never been used for a community hospital project of this scope or scale. The architects developed an innovative design for the full-service hospital using 354 pre-fabricated ten foot by twenty foot by fifteen foot modules stacked next to each other. The plan included four operating rooms, labor and delivery rooms, a nursery, emergency department, intensive care unit, diagnostic imaging facility, patient rooms, and food service departments.

This project is a precedent for how to restore full healthcare service in an emergency disaster relief situation. The program of the hospital is laid out rationally in order to utilize as compact a footprint as possible while still allowing for a user-friendly and compartmentalized hospital. From the lessons learned with this project the timeline can be reduced. If catastrophe befalls a hospital, full service care for a geographical area can be restored within months, not years. Just because a community is recovering from a natural disaster does not mean that patient care should suffer. The global aid community can use this method to construct effective semi-permanent field hospitals with truly sterile facilities to enhance patient care.

The original Hospital was a 143-bed facility constructed over three phases beginning in 1953. Construction of the replacement hospital is expected to begin in late 2008 to early 2009. The interim facility improves the level of care and performance by returning full service healthcare to the region. Patients have been forced to travel to far off neighboring communities in: Albany, Columbus, and Macon, Georgia in order to be treated.

“ It is built as strongly as the original building,” says the Chief Operating Officer of Sumter Regional Hospital. “In fact, the facility is better than what we had in the previous hospital. The patient rooms are larger and private, the operating rooms are much larger, the finishes are better and now all the services surround the patient.” The interim facility incorporates the latest design methods from evidence based healthcare, significantly improving and supporting the quality of care.
The interim facility serves the immediate need of providing healthcare, while at the same time allows for a full in-depth design process to take place for the replacement facility. The replacement facility will be superior due to the active interim facility. Time will not to be a controlling factor in the design process for a new regional healthcare system.

While modular in approach, it was critical for the design of interim hospital to not only look like, but also function as well as any conventionally built hospital. People do not necessarily select their healthcare facility because it is attractive. They select it based on high-quality care. But, the aesthetic of the units still needed to be appealing in order to instill confidence in the facility.
Sustainability is about making a collective of small decisions towards the greater good, that meet the needs and limits environmental impact. The interim facility needed to be temporary. Temporary should not be considered the same as disposable. If after a natural disaster the temporary structures are disposable; then the overall amount of waste could be doubled to that before the event. With that thought in mind a concentrated effort was made to recycle, reuse, and choose systems with more than one life cycle.

The project is an interim facility; it is designed to be dismantled after 3 years of use, once the new facility has been opened. The structural and envelope modules will be packed flat into pallets again and readied for their next deployment. These modules can be used over and over again. Reuse is always superior to recycling because the energy to dismantle and reassemble is significantly less than the energy that is required to collect, melt down, reform, and manufacture. Many item inside are reusable or recyclable in order to reduce landfill demand.

After the hospital is dismantled the site will be a concrete pad like a big box retailer, just as it was before any work was done on the site. Site disturbance was kept to the absolute minimum; only additional utility trenches were installed and the existing parking lot was re-striped for efficiency.
Much of the equipment (i.e. bed frames, I.V. stands, chart carts, etc.) was salvaged from the damaged facility. Careful and thoughtful equipment and furniture planning minimized the duplication of items that will ultimately be destined for the replacement facility.

Emergency preparedness is critical to restoring essential healthcare services to communities devastated by disasters. Careful planning and the creative use of innovative construction methods and building materials applied with sustainable concepts can quickly restore those critical healthcare services without jeopardizing patient care, safety or the environment.