Ten minutes spent discussing the merits of one toilet design over another, another five on sanitizer placement and then 10 more on the benefits and drawbacks of floor surfaces… and that’s just the bathroom. They are necessary discussions when creating a new inpatient unit.

User group sessions for a St. Paul’s Hospital fourth floor renovation project began in August and opened many eyes on just how much work is involved in designing patient friendly spaces, while maximizing space and efficiency for staff. The architectural firm designing the unit, AODBT, has been hosting the sessions to get feedback about proposed designs and floorplans.

“It’s absolutely imperative that we get staff participation into the process. They are after all the end-user, so everything should be done to get their input into the design,” says Dallas Huard, AODBT lead architect on the St. Paul’s Hospital forth floor renovation project. “We meet as often as possible, sometimes twice a day, with the different user groups to determine just what this redesign should look like.”

The changes to B-wing on the fourth floor of St. Paul’s Hospital are aimed to alleviate wait times in Saskatoon Health Region as part of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative. The redesign sees a dramatic shift in the style of rooms at St. Paul’s – moving from traditional a multi-patient design to a complete 18-bed, single-patient room unit.

Dallas Huard, AODBT lead architect on the St. Paul’s Hospital forth floor renovation project, walks user group participants through a room design mock-up.

“This is a very important addition to St. Paul’s Hospital and the Region. It should improve surgical capacity dramatically. I know the staff is excited to be part of the process and excited to see what the redesigned space finally looks like,” says St. Paul’s Hospital President and CEO Jean Morrison. “Of course, with any renovation project, inconveniences, such as additional vehicle and pedestrian traffic, construction sights and sounds, and impacts on other services and units in the facility is to be expected. However, we are committed to minimizing these impacts and working with staff and clients to make this project a success on all fronts.”

The new unit will be designed based on current infection control and safety standards, and will include wheelchair accessible washrooms, patient lifts and an increased number of sinks. The unit uses Lean principles in every facet of design, reducing the steps, movement and processes required by caregivers.

Lean also plays a role in the project’s timeline, resulting in a much quicker initiation to completion process. Planning sessions have included frontline staff, managers, and support services.

“We want to complete the project in under a year, so we are working at an expedited pace,” says Huard. “And we are moving along quite well considering as a whole process, this project should be completed in half the time than would usually be expected.”

The ultimate goal of the Saskatchewan Surgical Initiative is that no patient in Saskatchewan will wait longer than three months for the option to receive surgery by 2014. The renovation of fourth floor at St. Paul’s will help Saskatoon Health Region increase the number of surgical procedures performed.

Fourth foor preparation began on September 1, with construction slated to begin on October 1. Funded by the Ministry of Health and the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Embracing the Future Campaign, the unit is expected to open in July 2012.