Yale New Haven Hospital received city permission to build a 35-bed temporary emergency room to deal with an impending spike in Covid and flu cases – subject to city council approval that the six-month project won’t affect parking in the medical precinct.
This approval came at the last special meeting of the city planning commission on Wednesday evening. The three and a half hour virtual meeting took place online via Zoom.
The local land use officers unanimously voted for Yale New Haven Hospital’s site plan application to construct a temporary building for the emergency room at 1 Park Street on the corner of Howard Avenue.
Yale New Haven Health (YNHH), Senior Project Manager Alex Esdaile, and YNHH lawyer Amy Souchuns said the hospital plans to convert the West Pavilion Turnaround – the hospital entrance on the corner of Park Street and Howard Avenue – into “35 additional patient care areas” complete with frame, cladding, full care and fire protection.
“It’s essentially a stand-alone, fully functional care unit,” said Esdaile.
Why the need for extra space in the emergency room?
Because YNHH’s current emergency room is already pretty full – and it’s getting even busier thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and patients who have postponed treating other diseases for nearly two years.
“We think things will actually get worse as we get more into the winter weather and breathing season,” added Esdaile. “We expect an increase in severe colds and flu that we didn’t see last year will peak sometime in winter.”
Souchuns said that this project “is really intended as a temporary structure”.
It will be fenced and bollards will be placed to protect the area from possible vehicles that might attempt to enter.
Emergency room visitors who previously used the turn in the west pavilion to drop patients off or give their car keys to a servant must instead use the turn in the north pavilion outside the Smilow Cancer Center during the six months this temporary emergency room is in place.
Just to confirm that this will be a temporary structure, right? asked city engineer Giovanni Zinn.
That’s right, answered Souchuns. There will be no foundations, no excavations. Everything is mounted on the existing sidewalk and concrete. Construction will take four to six weeks and should last from mid-January to mid-June.
Westville Alder and City Plan Commissioner Adam Marchand described the two times in his life in New Haven when he had to take advantage of this turn in the West Pavilion, the times he and his then-pregnant wife rushed to the hospital as they prepared for childbirth of her two sons. This is an important entry point for pregnant and working parents, Marchand said.
“You are wondering what to say to expectant mothers and families [about] where should you go? “
That’s right, said Esdaile. Everyone will now enter through the North Pavilion outside Smilow on Park Street. The valet system remains in place.
“I hope you have a well-designed public education, signage and people to lead the way,” added Commission Vice-Chair Ed Mattison. “Things like that require a lot more preparation and a lot more flexibility on site to get them working without chaos.”
Esdaile said the hospital’s marketing and communications staff are putting together a “strategic communications plan” for visitors, patients and hospital staff about the remodeling of the West Pavilion.
Esdaile and Souchuns said this temporary change will not affect the hospital’s parking capacity as the turnaround is just a drop off area as it is. There will be no permanent parking spaces on the street.
Will this temporary construction of the emergency room result in more hospital staff being employed? asked Marchand.
No, answered Esdaile. “This will allow staff to work more efficiently as they are poor visual acuity patients who are able to cohort.
That said, some of these patients are currently being treated in the emergency room corridors because the rooms are all occupied. “It’s terribly inefficient,” said Esdaile.
“It takes the patients with poor visual acuity out of a hallway and into a private room where they can be properly treated,” Souchuns said.
Before the commissioners unanimously voted for the provisional emergency room, they added a permit condition and additional outcome to their report.
The condition for approval is that YNHH cannot begin construction of this makeshift emergency room until after the local council has received approval at the next week’s meeting that the emergency room plans will not affect the General Medical Areas Parking Plan (MOAPP) that the Alder trees sign off every year.
The commissioners also noted that, based on the Wednesday evening hearing and subsequent vote, the City Planning Commission concluded that “this project should not require any changes to the overall parking plan”.