New Hospital Brings
Green Design and
By Michael R. Mignogna
Mayor, Vorhees Township
& Richard P. Miller, Chief
Executive Officer, Virtua
A trusted hospital is a critical necessity for the health of a community. It is where we go to get well. It is also a significant contributor to our economic health. For a perfect example of a collaborative effort toward community well-being, look no further than Voorhees, where a township and a hospital are now synonymous with the phrase “state of the art.”
Voorhees Township in Camden County has long been connected to the Virtua health system. It is home to one of Virtua’s four hospitals. Ten years ago, Virtua recognized that its hospital in Voorhees would soon be unable to support the growing demand for its services. The hospital had been expanded out and up as far as it could go. Virtua quickly recognized that it had been presented with an exceptional opportunity to build a new hospital whose design would be at the forefront of healthcare delivery.
Virtua set its sights on the future in a community it has long proudly called its home. When the healthcare system made the decision to relocate from its longstanding hospital in the township, it did not choose to go too far. After much planning and hard work, in May of last year Virtua made the successful three and a half mile move to a new hospital on State Route 73 precipitating welcomed growth along that corridor in what had been a very difficult economic environment.
The new Virtua Voorhees Hospital is a 368-bed hospital built on 125 acres of land, 40 of which are preserved wetlands. The $463-million hospital covers 680,000 square feet, and inside, the best of human ingenuity and technology contributes to the highest level of patient care. Virtua Voorhees is now gaining international attention for its design for healing. It has all private rooms, a design feature that supports privacy. The best in health care is right here in Voorhees Township at what town leaders call the “Crown Jewel of Route 73.”
As for job creation, this expansion has proven to be an oasis of opportunity for the South Jersey region in a difficult economic time. While projects elsewhere were unable to start or continue, Virtua was able to create 2,800 jobs in construction and related industries. When the campus is totally completed this spring, Virtua estimates that 1,000 new permanent jobs will be created. Additionally, the new hospital will generate millions of dollars of economic activity for the area.
As with any project in any township, town leaders have a keen eye to the future. For Voorhees leaders, it has been fulfilling to see this project grow from infancy. Any challenges were dwarfed by the ongoing respect and confidence in the partnership between hospital and township that will have rewards long into the future. For example, Virtua installed a new sewer infrastructure on Route 73; serving the hospital, but also upgrading the efficiency to the corridor and its communities. This benefit will last for many years.
Virtua’s accomplishment came from the vision and dedication of its leadership and staff, all to better serve the community. Building a new hospital gave Virtua the opportunity to address today’s healthcare complexities by integrating new processes and designing the hospital around those processes. It is why the $463-million spent on this project will provide a high-value return for 50 years or more. Process improvement tools– used in industry and manufacturing to reduce variation and unnecessary steps—were used to map over 180 existing processes. The hospital was organized to provide for efficient patient and staff movements and to make it easier for clinicians to spend more time with patients. The team also evaluated the most efficient ways to deliver food, administer medications and document patient care.
Smart development is critical in Voorhees as it should be in every municipality in the Garden State. In being LEED Certified, the hospital follows U.S. Green Building Council guidelines for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, an internationally recognized green building certification system. An energy-efficient curtain wall system was installed as well as environmental control systems for lighting and temperature, and an energy recovery system to minimize energy impact on heating and cooling. There are water saving fixtures, indigenous landscape materials, and controlled outdoor lighting to reduce light pollution. The structure was designed to make use of natural light to decrease energy costs.
For Virtua, the new hospital is a critical piece in its expanding system of care. Hospitals will always be needed, but by better managing chronic disease and employing concepts of prevention, the goal is to keep many more people out of the higher cost acute care setting while improving the quality of their lives. This means more investment in primary care physicians, urgent care centers, home care, and chronic disease clinics. The new hospital is an investment in the future physical and economic health of South Jersey and Voorhees Township.
Collaboration has been at the forefront throughout this expansion. Ten years ago, Virtua formed a strategic partnership with General Electric to use its management tools to improve business operations. Virtua has also turned to partnerships with other clinical organizations that complement its strengths and help Virtua eliminate duplication of services.
But at the core of the entire process, from start to finish, the partnership between leaders of Virtua and the hospital’s hometown Voorhees Township has been one of trust, respect and common vision. Our mission is a shared one. The community we serve deserves the best in what health care can offer. And we are proud to say, that is what we have in Virtua Voorhees Hospital.
Originally published in New Jersey
Municipalities, Volume 89, Number 4, April 2012