Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center has a green light from the City of Burbank to build a new emergency room and urgent care facility at an estimated cost of $78 million. Preliminary work on the project, including cleaning and prepping the site and soil stabilization, began July 8. The hospital’s existing emergency room sees more than 70,000 patients a year. “Our current emergency services facility is not equipped to handle the volume we currently see,” said Kelly Linden, chief executive at the Burbank hospital. “We are serving some of the highest acuity patients in need in our community, things like our neuroscience program, our cardiovascular program. We are a comprehensive stroke receiving center for the County of Los Angeles. With that need and that high demand, it’s important that we have the right facility.” The project will include a one-story, 34,500-square-foot ER with 44 private rooms, as well as an 8,500-square-foot urgent care building housing 12 beds, also one story. For comparison, the existing ER is 13,800 square feet, with 28 emergency bays and eight overflow spaces; there is currently no Urgent Care on-site. The facilities will replace a 112-stall surface parking lot. New pedestrian sidewalks, midblock crossings and updated landscaping are also part of the plan. The existing 1,488 parking spaces will provide adequate space for patients and staff, Linden said. The project’s cost is not surprising according to Linden, with construction being more expensive in California than in other states, based on cost of living and ensuring the structure meets all seismic and regulatory requirements. Southern California is ranked the third highest region in terms of health care for cost per square foot, according to Theresa Bridgen, an energy and environmental design accredited professional for Vizient, a health care improvement company based out of Texas. The national average is $296 to $318 per square foot, compared to $400 to $700 in Southern California. Financing construction The project is 100 percent funded by the Providence St. Joseph Foundation, according to Michael Cusumano, chair of the board of governors for the organization and managing director at developer Cusumano Real Estate Group in Burbank. To date, the foundation has raised $59 million. “The process has been in place for about two years. We had our initial fundraising push, which is what we call the quiet phase, and confirmed some of our larger donations,” said Cusumano. “Then we rolled out the public rollout about a year ago.” Various committees tasked with reaching specific communities or industries in the area have been plugging away at raising the necessary funds, the foundation chair explained. Major contributors include Walt Disney Co., Warner Bros., Universal Studios, Entertainment Partners, the Robert R. McCormick family, and the Ed and Murphy Romano Family Foundation. Lead donor is the estate of musical instrument entrepreneur Jaromir Strizka, which donated $15 million. The emergency department will be named after him, Cusumano said. The hospital has a proud legacy of community involvement since opening its doors in 1944, with the likes of Walt Disney on the hospital’s first advisory council, and Dolores Hope, wife of Bob Hope, being the first vice president of the women’s guild. The project comes on the heels of the hospital’s 75th anniversary in February, with the expansion a testament to how needed the campus is and how much the area has grown. “Every time the foundation has gone to the community to raise funds for these really significant projects like the Disney Cancer Center or Neuroscience Center, Neonatal Center, this community has always stepped up,” said Cusumano. Space to grow For Dr. Angelique Campen, emergency department physician for Providence St. Joseph, infrastructure is finally catching up with need, both with patient density and having a more efficient design that can accommodate the latest technological advances. “It won’t just be a shiny new building. It will be functional for many years to come. I can’t tell you what the next breakthrough in medicine is going to be, but I am fairly certain that it will entail being faster, closer and at the patient’s bedside,” said Campen. “Our design of the new ER brings all of that into play, starting at the triage area where you walk in. We now have not just a nurse or the check-in person, but typically the first person that sees you is the medical provider, either the doctor or the (physician assistant).” Tech near the triage area for lab and radiologic tests will allow staff to quickly make a decision and administer treatment. Another huge advancement at the Burbank ER is an area for behavioral health patients, Campen said. Behavioral health patients admitted to the ER typically take longer to get placed for proper treatment. In the County of Los Angeles, it’s often difficult to find adequate placement for these patients. There simply aren’t enough beds, Linden said. The Burbank hospital has access to the wider Providence health system network, which makes placement slightly easier. Sister facilities in San Pedro and Orange County help, but hospitals often need to have an interim space for these patients. “We have designed an area of the department that serves that patient population much better,” added Campen. “That patient population tends to be a little louder, a little more disruptive; that’s not a very healing environment. It helps contain that sort of disruption and promote a healing environment for patients overall.” Staying with a theme of efficiency, the hospital’s on-site urgent care building will shave minutes off patient care. There have been urgent facilities nearby, but nothing on-site and run by the hospital, Campen said. If patients initially go to an urgent care but their illness ends up being more serious, facility staff can simply wheel the patient across to the emergency department. “I foresee that it will improve the utilization of urgent care, because people will feel more comfortable selecting that level of care because they are still able to fall back on the hospital if they need it,” added Campen. The urgent care center will be named after the Cusumano family, which donated $10 million in 2017.