Hot orange sparks rained down on newly erected steel girders Tuesday morning as construction workers welded and hammered while stretching to scaffolding and aerial ropeways overlooking the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh.
Two giant cranes turned non-stop, heaving construction materials weighing several thousand pounds over the busy construction site of the 410,000 square foot extension to UPMC Mercy Hospital in Uptown.
More than 400 workers worked on the UPMC Mercy Pavilion – a nine-story tower valued at US $ 510 million that will greatly expand the hospital’s capacity for outpatient vision and rehabilitation care.
“We’re just very excited,” said John Innocenti, President of UPMC Mercy Hospital. “The effect is to bring specialized care to the population at a central location, to really bring the ophthalmology and rehabilitation service line into a core area.”
Construction of the tower began in March 2019 and is expected to be completed by the end of next year. The aim is to open the tower to the first patients by May 2023, said project manager Michael Chiappetta.
The Locust Street facility near Duquesne University will have 81 eye exam rooms, 10 rehabilitation exam rooms, ophthalmic operating rooms, and 87,000 square feet of research space. It will treat patients with visual, mobility and cognitive impairments and its specialties will include cardiac, corneal, glaucoma and neurological care, as well as plastic surgery.
Among the highlights of the new medical tower:
• A full-size, vital apartment – complete with home furniture and appliances – where “patients can learn to take the next step” as they transition to an independent life with their vision or mobility problems. said Chiappetta.
• An outdoor healing garden on the fifth floor includes a variety of surfaces – gravel, stone, wood, steps, and ramps – so that patients can practice locomotion and physical rehabilitation in a safe environment.
• A patient gym with floor-to-ceiling glass windows overlooking the Pittsburgh Mt. Washington River and the South Side Slopes.
“There will be a full glass wall at the back so that those who use the gym can enjoy the view of the Mon (river).” Chiappetta called.
Designed by by HOK / IKM Architects, the floor plans of the tower The aim is to optimize the services for patients. A central pod on the floor of the operating room makes it easier for patients to get from an examination to a laboratory result or to pick up a prescription from the in-house pharmacy. Previously, patients had to cross several floors of UPMC Mercy’s main building to switch between doctor appointments and laboratory work.
“It streamlines the entire process in order to shorten waiting times”, said Chiappetta.
A six-story parking garage – with two more floors below the ground floor – will provide an additional 1,100 parking spaces for patients and staff, and a pedestrian bridge will connect the new building along Locust Street to the main hospital.
The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown in mid-2020 did not frustrate the construction of hospitals, with the state granting exemptions for health-related facilities in the factories as other unexempted projects had to be temporarily closed.
Persistent global supply shortages have posed some challenges, Innocenti said, but have not significantly hampered progress. For example, hIn order not to find enough plywood for laying concrete, we came up with a creative solution: the general contractor Mascaro Construction developed a way of washing and reusing old plywood.
The UPMC Mercy Pavilion’s Vision Institute is headed by a world-renowned ophthalmologist, Dr. José-Alain Sahel, who previously headed the Vision Institute in Paris. The first floors will house surgical and clinical facilities, with space reserved for clinical and academic research at the highest levels.
The long-time clinical scientist Dr. Gwendolyn Sowa, Chair of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and President of the Association of Academic Physiatrists, will serve as Director of the Pavilion’s UPMC Rehabilitation Institute.
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The project is the first of three major hospital expansions as part of a $ 2 billion specialty care investment in Pittsburgh, first announced in 2017.
Work on the two second specialty hospital projects in Oakland and Shadyside, which will not be completed for several years, has yet to begin.
Innocenti will continue to serve on the steering committee for the expansion of the 18-story inpatient tower on the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital campus in Oakland. The Presbyterian project will add 636 beds and 900,000 square feet for heart and transplant programs and a lobby-level lifestyle village.
“Everything is moving forward,” said Innocenti. “UPMC is up to date and offers innovations in outpatient and inpatient (and) definitely create opportunities, create industries in the city of Pittsburgh, and create better patient care. “
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Natasha Lindstrom is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, email@example.com, or on Twitter.