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Home > News & Events > Features > 2011 Features > New Foothills ICU ‘one of the best’

New Foothills ICU ‘one of the best’

August 4, 2011

Design incorporates feedback from patients and families

Story by Colin Zak; Photo by John Gaucher

Ken and Debbie Ellery were deeply worried about the health of their son, Jason, after a snowboard accident landed him in a Calgary intensive care unit (ICU) earlier this year.

The Ellerys, who flew in from their native Australia, had some of their concerns allayed as soon as they saw where their son was being treated – the newly designed ICU at Foothills Medical Centre.

“On arrival, we were quickly relieved to find Jason in the best level of care, in the best facility, we believe, in the world,” says Ken Ellery. Foothills ICU

Located in McCaig Tower, and opened this past April, the 36-bed unit’s design has set a new standard in patient- and family-focused care.

“This is by far one of the best ICUs I’ve worked in,” says Dr. David Zygun, Medical Director of the Foothills ICU. “It ranks as one of the best in North America.”

Individual rooms for each bed not only mean increased privacy for patients and their families, but also decreased risk of infection. And with 25 metres of open space around each bed, families have sufficient room to be at the patient’s bedside – a guiding principle for the design.

Multiple ‘quiet rooms’ and family consult spaces allow physicians to meet privately with family members and to display images explaining their loved one’s condition.

Along with an expanded waiting room and kitchen areas, each of the unit’s three pods, or sections, also has a resting and sleeping area.

“It’s not uncommon for families to stay overnight; this makes it possible,” Zygun says. “The space tells families ‘Don’t leave, stay here.’”

Traffic in hallways often mean excess noise and interruptions, but at McCaig’s ICU, separate clinical and supply hallways mean supplies enter and exit through the back of the facility.

The ICU is part of Alberta Health Services’ commitment to delivering world-class critical care to southern Albertans. It also adds new capacity within the Foothills Medical Centre campus.

Brainstorming for design ideas began seven years ago and involved more than just architects and interior designers. Patients and families also had the chance to come to the drawing board.

“Family members gave us lots of input, letting us know what was working and what was missing,” says Joy Teppler, unit manager of the ICU at Foothills. “Those suggestions factored into the final design.”

On-site rehabilitation facilities and an open-air terrace are just a few of the design elements that came about because of patient and family suggestions, she says.

Teppler says clinical staff also played a key role in developing the ICU design.

“Physicians and nurses, as well as auxiliary staff such as respiratory therapists, physical therapists, pharmacists and social workers all came to the table,” Teppler says. “It pays to have the input of people who will actually be working in the environment.”

For Ken Ellery, the work was worth it.

“The new facility was the best for our family – the setup out in the waiting rooms is fantastic,” he says. “It’s the little things like refrigerators, microwaves, being able to have some place to eat, discuss matters and sleep – these made the experience a little easier on the family.”