Hospital needs to modernize antiquated facilities

'Fire-Hazardous, Inadequate, Obsolete,' State must appropriate $4.5 million

 As a part of The Cavalier Daily’s 130 year anniversary, we are republishing articles from our archive. This article originally ran in The Cavalier Daily March 18, 1954. 

The University Hospital has made an unsuccessful attempt to obtain an appropriation of $4,500,000 from the Virginia General Assembly. This fund was to be used in the first phase of a proposed $10,000,000 building pogram. 

All hope that the House Finance Committee will approve funds this year has vanished. Dr. Vincent Archer, president of the Medical Society of Virginia, was in Richmond recently to ask the legislature for $250,000 to pay for the preparations of the hospital plans. This appropriation was approved last week by the Legislature. 

There is a definite need at the hospital to replace “fire-hazardous, inadequate, uneconomical and obsolete buildings,” according to an eight page statement issued by hospital authorities last summer. 

The appropriation for the first phase would be used in the construction of a modern T-shaped addition to the Barringer, Davis and McIntire wings, the only part of the hospital entirely fireproof. The new addition would contain accomodations for approximately 450 patients. With the 150 beds already in the three wings, the hospital would then have room to accomodate 600 in-patients comfortably.  

The new wing would consist primarily of one and two-bed units with nursing care of the patients. More adequate and modern surgical, obstetrical and emergency service facilities would be included in the planning. 

New Rucker Home

Also included in the first phase of construction activities would be the replacement of the Rucker Home with a modern, well-planned rehabilitation center for [children with disabilities]. No state appropriations would be required for this improvement since present endowments and special funds would be sufficient. 

For the second phase in the program, a centrally located auxiliary service would be erected with the appropriations. The wing would be located as to be [convenient] for both in-patien[t] and out-patient services. It would contain, among other things, an x-ray unit and a well equipped pharmacy. 

The program’s third phase would call for the remodeling of West Addition and construction of an addition to the West Wing to provide for adequate out-patient facilities. 

No Fire Escape

The fire-resistant West-Addition, built in 1941, is the most recently constructed unit. However, it does not have fire escapes. There is only one main elevator in the four-story building and only one staircase. 

The new out-patient unit in the addition would replace crowded, obsolete clinics and would unite all ambulatory care activities within one area. Included also would be Student Health offices and  a six-bed observation and diagnostic unit for patients not requiring admission to the hospital. 

The last phase would provide for the remodeling of Steele Wing, to centralize offices and consultation facilities for the professional departments. 

The Steele Wing, constructed in 1923, is non-fireproof and would require complete remodeling of the interior. It is estimated to contain a sufficient area for well-planned professional offices. 

The report states that the majority of the hospital buildings are at least a half-century old and non-fire proof in construction, that the electrical circuits are overloaded, that there is inadequate number of fire extinguishers and that the corridors are overcrowded due to their use as nursing stations. These examples are only a few of the inadequacies cited by hospital officials in the 1953 report. 

Admissions are often more numerous than hospital facilities can handle efficiently. In many cases wards are so overcrowded that beds have to be set up in the halls. This is not only inconvenient but, in cases of contagious diseases, a definite danger to the health of doctors, nurses, visitors and patients. Long delays in diagnosis and treatment are frequently the result of this overcrowded condition. 

Important services are not centrally located — distance exceeding 500 feet are involved in the transportation of patients, food, supplies and equipment in the normal course of patient care and treatment. In one instance, patients must go outside to get certain treatment in another building. 

The obsolescence of the hospital plan directly affects the comfort and care of each patient. In four wards located off the basement corridor, patients occupy poorly ventilated, overcrowded, dark rooms which resemble a jail more than a place to care for the sick. Plumbing and heating systems throughout the older buildings are outdated. The hospital’s nursery, surgical and TB departments are not approved by the American College of Surgeons and the American Hospital Association, because modern care calls for isolation of these facilities. 

Transcribed by Zoe Ziff

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