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Saint John’s Reconstruction Gets Blessing

By Jorge Casuso

September 29 – Ten year’s after the Northridge earthquake damaged Saint John’s Health Center, the first phase of the hospital’s $360 million reconstruction -- a new four-story North Pavilion -- has received the Cardinal’s blessing and is set to be dedicated early next month.

On Friday, Cardinal Roger Mahony celebrated mass with several local priests under a large tent in the shadow of the sparkling white pavilion, then the clergy stepped inside to the strains of a choir to bless the 150-room state-of-the-art inpatient facility.

“The church continues to be very involved in continuing the ministry of healing,” Mahony told the clergy, dignitaries and nearby residents gathered on the hospital lawn on a pleasant, sunny afternoon. “It is a vital part of our tradition.”

Cardinal Mahony and usher Joe Meehan -- Cardinal blessing first floor

Saint John’s provides “high quality medical care done in a way that puts people in touch with the calming and healing ministry of Jesus,” the Cardinal said. “This day we celebrate a new phase in the long illustrious history of Saint John’s Health Center. We celebrate that, but we never forget why we are doing it.”

The completion of the 200,000-square-foot North Pavilion is the culmination of the first phase of an extensive rebuilding project in the wake of the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The replacement hospital will be the only one on the Westside with a state-of-the-art base isolation system that allows the facility to remain fully operational during a temblor with a magnitude of up to 6.8, hospital officials said.

“It’s a milestone in our history,” said Bruce Lamoureux, St. John’s CEO. “The North Pavilion will change the way we think about hospitals.”

A walk through the new facility makes it clear this is no traditional hospital. The patient quarters resemble more hotel suites than hospital rooms, with “easy care” linoleum designed to look like real wood flooring.

Configured for comfort and healing, the rooms include oversized convertible sofa beds for visiting family members, 42” plasma TVs with network programs, video-on-demand and Internet access.

The corridors and common areas are designed to provide added privacy and special spaces, with specially manufactured carpeting to help reduce noise levels for patients while adding the warmth to public spaces.

Scenic floor-to-ceiling glass windows at the end of every hallway on all four floors create quiet “contemplation corners” where visitors can relax and take a break, while separate service elevators for patients and medical staff provide additional privacy and security.

Instead of trudging down long, straight hallways, visitors follow gentle curved walkways punctuated by nursing stations configured with a welcoming open-plan design.

“It’s a blessing to provide new facilities in this (economic) environment,” said Lamoureux. “We’re thrilled. We got through it all, and here we are. We look very much forward to the next phase.”

Cardinal Mahony, Monsignor Torgerson and Sister Marie Madeleine, President of Saint John's Health Center receiving a plaque commemorating the event.

The second step of the new Saint John’s rebuilding plan is the construction of a 275,000-square-foot, four-story diagnostic and treatment facility, which will be built on the site of the original hospital and is anticipated to be completed in January 2009, hospital officials said.

To make way for the new facility, the demolition of the oldest hospital building on the site -- the Main Wing -- will take place in January 2005, officials said.

The center’s $360 million reconstruction is bankrolled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), hospital resources and philanthropists, with each contributing about one third of the funds, officials said.

“The greater Westside has responded to our appeals for support,” said Bob Klein vice president of the Saint John's Health Center Foundation.

Donors are being thanked with special plaques in every room and a large recognition panel on each floor that incorporates religious imagery.

The generosity of people makes it something that is extraordinary,” said Tommy Griffin, whose Presentation Design Group was in charge of the panels and plaques. “They give because they want to be associated with the good name of the institution.”

After mass, Cardinal Mahony presented a dedication plaque to Saint John's President Sister Marie Madeleine of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who has been instrumental in the reconstruction effort.

“It’s a wonderful day,” Sister Marie Madeleine said after the service, “the joy of celebrating with all the people who’ve made it possible.”

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