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Healthcare / Service redesign

US architects’ body assembles group to support healthcare facility adaptation

By Andrew Sansom 31 Mar 2020 0

In an effort to support the COVID-19 response, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has launched a task force to help inform public officials, healthcare facility owners and architects on adapting buildings into temporary healthcare facilities.

The AIA proposes that federal, state and local government adapt appropriate existing buildings to meet the growing healthcare and quarantine needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The task force will set about developing a COVID-19 Rapid Response Safety Space Assessment for AIA members. This will include considerations for the suitability of buildings, spaces and other sites for patient care. The assessment will be developed by architects with a wide range of expertise, including healthcare facility design, urban design, public health and disaster assistance.

“On a daily basis, I’m hearing from our architects, who feel a deep sense of moral duty to support our healthcare providers on the frontlines of this pandemic,” said AIA president Jane Frederick. “As our communities assess buildings to address growing surge capacity, we hope this task force will be a resource to ensure buildings are appropriately and safely adapted for our doctors and nurses.”

The task force is chaired by environmental health scientist Dr Molly Scanlon, director of standards, compliance and research at Phigenics.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic public health response there is an unprecedented need for the adaptive reuse of buildings to serve a variety of functions,” she said. “Architects and our allied design and construction professionals are in a unique position to leverage our advanced problem-solving skills to bring forth ideas for community implementation.” 

The task force plans to release its report in early April in an effort to help inform decisions to address the pandemic.

“This is a race against time for healthcare facilities to meet bed surge-capacity needs” said AIA Academy of Architecture for Health president Kirsten Waltz, who is the director of facilities, planning and design at Baystate Health. “This task force will help inform best practices for quickly assessing building inventory and identifying locations that are most appropriate to be adapted for this crisis.”

Waltz and other members of the task force are helping bridge the needs of healthcare providers by modifying hospitals and smaller facilities to meet the growing bed surge demand and to increase areas for medical screening, triage and other patient care.

In New York, the state hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, a temporary 1000-bed medical station has been opened at the Jacob K Javits Convention Center to house non-COVID-19 patients and relieve the burden on local hospitals.

Governor Andrew M Cuomo has announced a statewide public-private hospital plan to tackle the crisis. As part of the plan, public and private hospitals from across the state have agreed to implement a new balanced approach to fighting the virus, where hospitals that are beginning to reach or exceed capacity can transfer patients to other hospitals that are not as full.

The hospital systems across the state have also agreed to share supplies, staff and other resources as needed. The State Department of Health will work with the statewide healthcare system to create a command centre to share information between hospitals about the supplies each hospital has in stock and the supplies each hospital is ordering. This central inventory system will help ensure purchasing and distribution of supplies is done strategically and efficiently.

“As the numbers continue to increase, the situation is becoming painfully clear that the frontline battle of this virus will be fought in our healthcare system,” said Governor Cuomo. “We need more healthcare professionals, we need more supplies, we need more capacity – and we need it now. The entire country has been playing catch up with this virus since day one, but in New York, we’ve been trying to plan forward and get ahead of the problem. We’re continuing to stockpile supplies in preparation for the apex of the curve, and we’ve reached an agreement with the statewide healthcare system to co-ordinate and work together as one entity to balance the load of patients and share staff and resources.”

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