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Going Up

Annual Report - Winter 2012

More patient beds, a firm foundation

By Gail Goodwin

It was all part of the initial plan. When architects, engineers and construction workers returned to 
MD Anderson’s Alkek Hospital in 2007, the foundation was in place.

Janet Sisolak, project director for facilities in Capital Planning and Management, explained that MD Anderson was almost at 100% capacity for inpatient beds in 2005.

“It took almost a year to determine that we would add floors to the existing Alkek Hospital rather than build a free-standing building,” she says. “We worried about disrupting patient services, but determined that a new building would be twice the cost of the Alkek addition.”

Once the decision was made to add nine floors to the existing building, construction began in August 2007. 

Sisolak says that in addition to the building plans, a tremendous communications plan was instigated. “From announcements on floor bulletin boards to fliers on meal trays, we let everyone know about the building process.”

Nurses’ flexibility, leadership enhanced expansion

Part of the expansion included elevator banks, which affected all existing operations. As the building rose from its original 12 floors, weekly meetings were held with the contractor to inform nursing, patient advocacy, The University of Texas Police Department and others about upcoming construction plans.

“This project gave me enormous appreciation for our professional nurses and their flexibility in dealing with all phases of the construction,” Sisolak says.

From the beginning, it was important to test what effect construction noise and vibration would have on surgical procedures and the use of microscopes.

“It was quite a seamless, straightforward project,” reports Garrett Walsh, M.D., professor in the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and head of the Perioperative Enterprise Program. “Nurse leaders worked with neurosurgeons and others to detect any unusual vibrations. Luckily, we had no problems in any of our surgical areas.”

Sisolak concurs. She also credits much of the success of the project to Barbara Summers, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Nursing and vice president and chief nursing officer, who appointed the nursing leadership and changed the Alkek care delivery model.

Thanks to cooperation from many areas, Alkek Hospital has moved on up, now rising to 24 floors.

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