Hospital

A view of private rooms in the new $187 million Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Building at University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

BURLINGTON — A new building at University of Vermont Medical Center aims to greatly increase privacy and comfort for patients and families.

The $187 million Robert E. and Holly D. Miller Building opened June 1 after nearly three years of construction. It is named for well-known area philanthropists who have made significant contributions to University of Vermont Medical Center facilities.

The Miller Building will not increase the total number of patients that can be cared for, but will increase the number of private patient rooms from 30 to 90%, once current double-patient rooms also become private rooms after the transfer of patients to the new building. The older rooms will be refurbished to meet similar standards in the new building.

The project was approved in 2015 by the Green Mountain Care Board to address an “identifiable and existing need to replace inpatient beds,” some of which date back to the 1950s.

Medical center officials said the project would not increase insurance premiums in the state. Instead, the project was funded from working capital, $89 million in borrowing and $30 million in donations from employees, former patients and more than 1,000 households.

The new patient rooms will serve specialty surgery, cardiology, oncology and orthopedic patients.

With a total of 187,000 square feet of new space, each new patient room is 340 square feet, with a private bathroom and shower, and larger space for families with a pull-out couch for overnight stays. A bedside table device allows for control of television and room lighting, and access to the patient’s medical record, menus, daily schedule and educational materials. An electronic “whiteboard” opposite the bed provides up-to-date information on the patients and their care team.

Officials said studies show the new rooms allow for improved outcomes for patients, lower infection risk and lessen the need for pain medication. It also means fewer interruptions to sleep and patients are able to communicate more freely with their care team in a private room.

There are four patient floors with 32 rooms each and new facilities for caregivers with large spaces for computers, patient information boards and monitors where medical teams can collaborate effectively just steps away from patient rooms.

The new building will use half the energy of a comparable hospital facility. The first hospital in New England to use “dynamic glass,” windows automatically tint and clear with changes in the intensity and direction of sunlight, reducing heating and cooling costs. Recycled materials, such as concrete and insulation material made from old blue jeans, were also used to help complete the project under budget.

Hundreds of medical center employees and about a dozen patients and family members provided input for the project’s design and operational planning.

There was also a significant state economic impact from the project. Contracts worth $72.9 million benefited 39 Vermont companies, which comprised 76% of contractors involved and 341 or 86% of construction workers were Vermonters.

For Benoit Electric in Barre, the Miller Building was a major boost for the company with a $12 million contract.

“It was a very large project, a big job for us,” said John Benoit, company president. “We’ve worked non-stop with UVMMC for over 30 years.

“We do a lot of health care work around the state and we’re up for the challenge. There are not many opportunities to do a job like this and it was an interesting process,” he added.

Dave Keelty, director of facilities, planning and development at UVMMC, said much of the project’s success stemmed from careful design and planning, which included 3-D computer modeling that allowed for the careful integration of infrastructure and services, prefabrication of many components and reduced construction problems, time and costs. The outcome, he said, was a superior project that benefits patients, families and clinical staff.

“The main driver was to improve the patient/family and caregiver environment, to provide facilities equal to high-quality care that we deliver — that was the overarching goal,” Keelty said. “Secondary to that was to replace our oldest in-patient units and we did that — we got people out of units that were constructed in the ‘50s and ‘60s and we’re looking at repurposing those units.

“The third thing was to really try to provide the greatest number of private, single rooms that we could. The reason for that is we only had maybe 20%, at most, of single rooms and we wanted to get that up to 90%. There’s a lot of reasons for that: with patients that present with infectious disease, you have to take a double room and make it a single room, and that reduced the number of available beds,” he added.

For more information about the Miller Building, visit www.uvmhealth.org/medcenter/millerbuilding.

stephen.mills @timesargus.com

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