OAKLAND -- Alta Bates Summit's new Merritt Pavilion stands on a hodgepodge of former buildings and connects to the old Merritt building. It was a tricky foundation to begin with.

But the curve of the building means that some rooms are larger and more private and that the hallways are quieter. And a seamless connection between the old building and the new allows easier movement for medical care providers and patients.

"We built this as an investment to the community," said Dr. Steve O'Brien, chief medical officer. "It's our acute care center for Oakland."

At the new building at 350 Hawthorne Ave., every patient will have a private room with free Wi-Fi and a pullout guest bed or chair.

The 238 rooms are bright and airy, with views of the bay and the Oakland hills. The beds, next to monitors that have records access, coupled with more space, make it easier to provide care at the bedside.

A flat-screen monitor in each room will allow patients to watch TV as well as on-demand movies, music and health education programs. The beds have a Vocera communication device that calls a patient's nurse who is wearing the system.

The LEED Silver certified building looks modern and sleek, but inside, it has some colorful touches. Various artworks, including a quilt made by employees of different departments to celebrate Alta Bates Summit Medical Center's centennial, hangs in rooms. The walls were painted beige and other soft colors to create a soothing atmosphere.


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There is valet service and a new 1,067-space parking garage across the street. Nearby is a garden plaza with greenery and outdoor seating.

A therapy garden, another new green space, sits on the roof of the connected old building. Patients can walk up and down a ramp and on gravel, sand, cobble stone and golf turf. The various surfaces are meant to simulate what a person will encounter outside, said Mary Cafarella-Ake, director of rehabilitation.

"We are ranked in the top 2 percent in clinical outcomes compared to 800 facilities across the nation," Cafarella-Ake said of the center. "Currently, we have a 39-bed unit and we're going to be moving to this wonderful 58-bed unit."

The expansion, which is much needed as it serves at almost full capacity, will make Alta Bates one of the largest rehabilitation services providers in the Bay Area.

The new treatment area is more than 12,000 square feet and has a new car simulator that tests patients' reflexes and an overhead tracking system, which are being installed in patient rooms.

"It's fantastic because it allows the therapist to have the patient ambulate much more quickly, be in an upright position much more quickly," Cafarella-Ake said. "We know that having patients in an upright position helps them get to walking and increasing their functional status."

The building also has a computer-controlled pneumatic tube system that shoots cylindrical containers that will contain lab work and medications throughout the medical center. Another safety improvement is medication storage. A patient's name unlocks and pops open the drawer holding his or her medication, decreasing the possibility of a mix-up.

Sutter Health spent $450million to design and build the Merritt Pavilion and the parking structure and to buy medical equipment. The project was on time and on budget and part of Sutter Health's more than $700 million investment in the East Bay.

Next week, more than 200 hospitalized patients will move in, carefully wheeled from the old building and transported from the Alta Bates campus in Berkeley by ambulance to the new facility.

The new Merritt Pavilion, which opens Aug. 3, was built to meet seismic safety requirements for California hospitals. Other buildings have been and will be retrofitted.

On Sunday, the building is open to the public and employees for tour. There will be activities and food trucks during the event, which starts at 1 and ends at 4 p.m.