SF General Gets a New Building

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For anyone driving down Potrero Avenue near 23rd Street in the last three years, the construction at San Francisco General Hospital has been hard to miss. The city-owned hospital is building an entirely new structure that will eventually house the new emergency room and trauma unit.

The rebuilding project is 64 percent complete; the all-steel structure was installed recently and now workers are moving on to the prefabricated brick façade, said a spokesman in an update. To form the new structure’s foundation, workers poured over 400 truckloads of cement over a two-day period.

The $887.4 million rebuilding project is designed to comply with Senate Bill 1953, which mandates that all inpatient hospitals providing acute care meet strict earthquake safety codes, said Tristan Cook, the project’s public relations director. Once the seismic rebuild is complete, the existing structure will house all non-acute or outpatient services, he said.

“The General” has been a presence on Potrero for 140 years. The hospital is a level-one trauma center with a tradition of service to poor and working-class patients as well as compassionate care for people with HIV/AIDS.

The new nine-story structure sits atop 115 base isolators, structural elements that can move up to 30 inches in any direction. In the event of an earthquake, the isolators are designed to keep the building stable, Cook said.

“It is the same technology used in skyscrapers that weathered the recent earthquakes in Japan,” he said.

Beyond the seismic upgrades, the new hospital structure will more than double emergency-room beds to 60 from 27. In addition, 32 more beds will be added to the inpatient rooms, and 90 percent of the 284 beds in the hospital will be private rooms — a design that helps prevent infection between patients as well as providing other benefits.

“[Private rooms] also encourage longer family visits, which research has shown improves the rate of recovery for patients,” said Cook.

The City of San Francisco was able to afford the new building after a bond measure passed overwhelmingly in 2008.

“Eighty-four percent of the community voted in favor of the proposition to rebuild SFGH,” said Cook, “which really speaks to the important role we serve as the city’s trauma center, and the excellent care we provide.”

Slated for completion by late 2015, the project is on schedule and on budget, Cook said.

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