Art and robots will call new hospital home

A 37-foot dalmatian balancing a taxi on its nose greets patients outside the new Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital. (Photos by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

On June 24, Kips Bay’s medical and science corridor will have one more hospital building, the 18-story Kimmel Pavilion at East 34th Street and First Avenue. The $1.2 billion facility, which is part of the NYU Langone Health campus, will include the Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, the first children’s hospital to open in New York City in nearly 15 years.

While still off limits to anyone but construction crews and some hospital brass on Monday, the site was opened briefly for press and others who wanted a tour of the building, which has been in the works for the past 10 years.

The hospital will be unique for a few reasons, one of which is the attention paid to art. “Spot,” a 37-foot sculpture of a Dalmatian balancing a real New York City taxi on its noise, designed by artist Donald Lipski, greets patients at the entrance to the children’s hospital. There are also a number of other sculptures throughout the facility, designed to reflect the light under high ceilings. Others, like a rooftop waffle cone and oversized tennis ball, were clearly designed with underage critics in mind.

Another difference will be the reliance on robot assistants. During the tour, the public was introduced to one of the hospital’s 31 mobile “TUG” robots, which were made by a company called Aethon. Appearance-wise, they aren’t much, just squat, boxy things on wheels, but the robots will be in charge of delivering medicine and food and even collecting hazardous waste.

Another type of technology the hospital will utilize — which is also unique to NYU Langone — is the digital medication drawer. Located under small screens at the door of each patient room, the drawers contain medications for the patient and can be unlocked only by a fingerprint of a clinical staff member. Inside the rooms will be 75-inch MyWall screens, which, along with allowing patients to catch up on their Netflix favorites, also include patient-accessible information about their own care, like bios of their doctors and lists of their daily goals. Patients can also watch meditation videos (there are 40 to choose from), directly order their meals from a menu without having to ask a staffer, Skype or use the internet.

Rooms also include smart beds, which can alert a care provider if a patient who’s a fall risk leaves his or her bed. Staffers have also been armed with a set of apps on smartphones aimed at enhancing communication on patient care.

The technology enhancements were included in a $400 million investment the hospital has made in IT initiatives in the last seven years.

At the sneak preview, administrators said the idea was to make the hospital a convenient and calming place for patients to heal.

A terrace that’s accessible to patients

There are 374 patient bedrooms, which are all private, as well as 30 operating rooms and 30 labs. Sixty-eight of the patient rooms will be at Hassenfeld and will include sleeping space for a parent. Windows are triple-paneled, which may help muffle any noise from the nearby heliport and all patient rooms have sliding doors for privacy. Children’s rooms are equipped with PlayStations and various games.

“They’re totally patient-centered,” said Robert Grossman, MD, CEO of NYU Langone Health. “You’ll get that with respect to the rooms. Every patient is a VIP. We don’t even have VIP rooms.”

The building is just north of NYU Langone’s Tisch Hospital, as well as Bellevue Hospital, both of which were flooded during Hurricane Sandy and had to undergo extensive repairs. This topic was briefly brought up by Vicki Match Suna, senior vice president and vice dean for real estate development and facilities, who said that the 830,000-square-foot structure was “designed with sustainability and resiliency on the forefront.”

As for the children’s hospital, there’s a focus on recreational activities. Along with art, horticulture, music and pet therapy, there’s also a broadcasting studio for patient use (videos they make can be streamed into rooms of patients who can’t get to the space themselves), a room exclusively for teens to socialize and rooftop terrace with a garden. Some of these features were suggested by a youth advisory council.

Children’s recreational room

Casey Jimenez, a 16-year-old member of the council, said she would have loved access to the teen room or studio when she was holed up for six days during treatments for cystic fibrosis.

“For six days I wasn’t allowed to leave the room,” she said. Now, she noted, “What they’re offering can be brought to your room. There are so many things you can do in this hospital and it doesn’t scare kids.”

There is also a spacious room for events like magic shows and parties for families and off to the side, a room for parents to shower or do laundry.

“We haven’t had a space like this before,” said Chris Brown, director of therapeutic recreation, child life and creative arts therapies. “We always had to do things in a tight space. So instead of having two Rockettes as we did last year, we can have the whole team and they can do the kick line.”

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