PROVO — Rushing wind. Clanging metal. Blistering heat.
Despite its unfinished state, the 10th floor of Utah Valley Hospital's new patient tower offers undeniably beautiful views: from the wind farm at the head of Spanish Fork Canyon to the top of BYU's LaVell Edwards Stadium.
When the facility opens its doors to patients in 2018, it will become the tallest building in Utah County and will redefine the skyline of Provo.
It will also, hospital officials hope, redefine what it means to care for patients — both mind and body.
"We're not doing this for the bells and whistles or to make something look nice, although that does come with it," project manager Josh Rohatinsky said. "It comes back to what works best for the patient.”
The $429 million project, scheduled to be completed in 2019, will replace more than half of the space on the current campus with a 12-story patient tower and nine-story outpatient building.
The patient tower's steel frame already towers over the Provo skyline, a little more than a year after workers broke ground on the project. Only the city's iconic smokestacks — set to be demolished by the end of this year — come close to matching the building's height.
Provo Deputy Mayor Corey Norman said the facility's skyward thrust marks a new chapter, not just in the hospital's development, but also in the city's.
Provo ranked second in the nation for job growth in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, growing three times faster than the national average.
The city's burgeoning tech industry appears to be fueling population growth and a booming housing market in the rest of the county. Last year, Utah County added almost as many people to its population as Salt Lake County, which is twice as big.
"The demands on the city and the demands on Provo are not going away anytime soon," Norman said.
No, the city's skyline won't be the same, Norman acknowledged. But "until someone can figure out how to grow more land, there's no more places left to develop," he said.
"We're seeing residents coming in (and) businesses coming into the downtown area,” Norman said. “And instead of spreading out, everything is going skyward."
When complete, the Utah Valley Hospital project will add just 10 beds to the medical center — with room for another 36 if the hospital chooses in the future.
But Rohatinsky said the new facility would set itself apart by its focus on "evidence-based design" — the idea that roomier, quieter and brighter hospitals can reduce depression, distract patients from pain and help promote healing.
Large windows will afford views of Utah Lake to the south and Mount Timpanogos to the north. A garden will give patients a chance to relax and enjoy nature. Patient rooms will go from an average of 225 square feet — with the smallest room currently measuring just 150 square feet — to an average of 300 square feet, according to Rohatinsky.
"Better care is given when we have more space," he said. "You go into one of these ICU rooms and there's so many pieces of equipment, there's so many alarms. It's just a mess."
And what about disruptions to the patient? Supply rooms will be moved to a private hallway. Chatty nurses stations will be dispersed around the hallway.
Patients can expect to get more privacy and better sleep, Rohatinsky said, and their loved ones will have more space to spend time with them.
Departments that were once shoehorned into whatever space was available — often on opposite sides of the building, as with radiation and chemotherapy — will now be brought together, Rohatinsky added.
The new patient tower will also be seismically sound, a feature that required a 4-foot thick concrete foundation with 237 columns driven 32 feet into the ground to support. It took 85 truck drivers from three concrete plants to complete it, Rohatinsky said.
The hospital’s east building that currently houses most patient services will be demolished, something that spokeswoman Janet Frank said will be hard on many employees.
"Since I've been here, pretty much every single building has come down," said Frank, a 19-year employee of Utah Valley Hospital, once known as Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.
The hospital's west building will continue to house pediatric services, such as the specialty clinic that the hospital opened in February in collaboration with Primary Children's Hospital, she said.
The outpatient building is expected to be operational by 2017 and the patient tower by fall of 2018.
Although it will be a "bittersweet day," many providers and employees are excited to see the new tower go up, Frank and Rohatinsky agree.
"Looking 50 years down the road, with the growth of Utah County expected to double by 2030, preparing the hospital for that was the impetus,” Rohatinsky said.
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