Rush hospital ramps up emergency response plan

December 7, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Now, Rush University Medical Center says it is taking infection control and emergency response to a whole new, unprecedented level.

Imagine: A massive explosion involving radiation, the release of a deadly toxin, or an unknown disease spreading across the city.

"It may be scary to think about, but this is the right thing to be prepared for if the city of Chicago ever needs that response," said Rush's Dr. Anthony Perry.

The Advanced Center for Emergency Response at Rush, 1650 W. Harrison, is designed to take on the worst of the worst.

The ability to transform common areas is billed as one of the more unique aspects of the new $654 million hospital building. For example, an ambulance bay can change on demand into a huge decontamination room.

"We can actually create high volume showers in this area that come out to allow for decontamination of people," said Perry.

Pillars in the lobby may look ordinary enough, but hidden panels house things necessary for patient care.

"We could open this and we have oxygen, air, special power outlets, all the things we would need to setup here, and have the ability to take care of patients," said Perry.

Infection control is also something the new hospital has invested heavily in. A special ventilation system allows for not just single-patient rooms to be isolated, but also larger areas of the building.

"We can actually alter the way air is flowing in this building pretty dramatically to create the ability to handle a large number of people who might come in and need special isolation," said Perry.

Robots referred to as automated guided vehicles are part of the infection control plan. Using their own special elevators, they will pick up and deliver materials in the hospital, keeping the clean and dirty supplies separate.

"Where they end up there are spots where clean materials are stored and spots where soiled materials are stored, and it's very important that they all stay separated because we don't want any cross contaminated," said Perry.

Administrators say the unusual butterfly shape of the building was not created to make architectural statement, but is more a result of the desire to create a space that works best for patients and healthcare workers.

The building will be officially dedicated Wednesday.

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