If you drive north of Colorado Springs on I-25, you can’t miss the new St. Francis-Interquest Hospital just off the highway at Interquest Parkway. With the north side of the city booming, it’s no surprise that healthcare is expanding in the Interquest area. Both of the region’s largest healthcare networks, Centura Health and UCHealth, have new major medical facilities opening within the next few months.
The UCHealth Interquest Medical Center is scheduled to open in May 2023 at Interquest Parkway and Voyager Parkway. The center will hold orthopedic and primary care clinics, along with lab, rehab and imaging services.
The St. Francis-Interquest Hospital will come online this summer, opening its emergency department on July 11, 2023, and operating rooms on July 12 at Interquest Parkway and I-25. We recently toured the new hospital for a preview as GE Johnson Construction crews continued their work.
The new 72-bed hospital will focus on orthopedic and spine care, but it will also be the first hospital-based, full-service emergency department on the city’s rapidly growing north side. “We’re calling it the hospital of the future,” says Patrick Sharp, CEO of Penrose and St. Francis Hospitals. “This new hospital will elevate the standard of care we provide every community, every neighborhood, and every life. It’s an honor to extend our mission to the northern part of the city as we amplify wholeness and healing.”
The hospital’s 10 large operating rooms are specifically designed for orthopedic and spine surgery and equipped for robotic procedures. They feature self-contained ceiling units that diffuse airflow away from patients and provide a visible light disinfection system. “There are no detrimental impacts to humans, but very detrimental impacts to bacteria,” says Bill Lueck, director of new development for Centura Health and our tour guide through the new hospital. “When the lights are on in this room, they will be providing passive disinfection for the patient, surgeon and staff.”
The ORs are also equipped with secure telehealth technology. “If a spine surgeon needs to consult with a caregiver at, for example, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, she and her team can dial up that surgeon and consult securely and privately,” Lueck says.
Patient rooms will be equipped with new technology as well, designed to enhance the in-patient experience. Large monitors will display X-rays or let a doctor point out CT scan results with touchscreen capability. Patients can control their room environment—including lights, blinds, air temperature, TV—with a touchscreen tablet. And the hospital’s Real Time Locating System (RTLS) will track health providers entering and exiting the room. “When a doctor or nurse walks in the room, their face, name and credentials pop up on the screen, so you always know who’s in your room,” Lueck says.
When it was announced in 2021, the hospital’s total price tag was expected to be $150 million. Total cost is now expected to be $180 million. Nevertheless, even with all of its cutting edge features, Lueck says St. Francis-Interquest is being built for about half the cost of the national average. “This hospital, including the cost of the land, will be built for about $2.7 million per bed,” Lueck says. “That’s a little more than half of the going national average per hospital bed.”
He credits design and construction efficiency for most of the savings, including the hospital’s massive, energy-efficient exterior, tilt-up concrete panels as well as technologies such as the Real Time Locating System. He says designers also meticulously eliminated any wasted space, such as large conference rooms or administrative offices. “The reason we’re doing that is so we can invest in other ways to care for our community with the best caregivers, the best technology and the best surgeons,” Lueck says.
Common spaces at St. Francis-Interquest include a large 261-by 120-foot artificial turf field on the north side of the building. The field sits on top of a covered parking lot. The scenic green space will provide outdoor space for rehab or physical therapy activities or simply to walk and enjoy fresh air for patients, family or staff and care providers. It will also be available to Centura’s future ambulatory surgery center and medical office building. Construction will begin on that facility in September 2023.
The hospital’s first-floor chapel is designed to provide contemplative space inside with windows facing the Front Range and easy access to outdoor gardens and the turf field. Nearby, the hospital’s cafeteria and coffee shop will be easily accessible from the entry atrium.
Large windows and natural light are prominent features throughout the hospital’s modern design. Patient rooms and the post-operative recovery area include floor to ceiling windows.
“The hospital will be filled with incredible art, including what I like to call Dancing Francis,” Lueck says. “He’s going to be a joyful St. Francis.” Colorado artist Bonny Lhotka is painting a large-scale rendition on the atrium’s north wall featuring St. Francis of Assisi surrounded by animals, creatures, the sun and moon. The installation continues onto the ceiling as 3D acrylic features transform into birds and the Centura dove.
St. Francis-Interquest will also feature a series of life-size, translucent rock climbers created by local artist Wendy Mike. “There will be five different poses climbing up the double-height wall in the surgical waiting area, based on a female climber model that she used,” Lueck says. “My favorite connection is that her husband, Chris Mike, has worked in the OR at Penrose for 30 years.”
And everyone entering the front of the new hospital will pass by a 24-foot, 4-ton statue of St. Clare of Assisi, one of the earliest followers of St. Francis. The modern, metal sculpture is created by South Dakota artist Dale Claude Lamphere, who also created the similar statue of St. Francis at Centura’s St. Francis Medical Center on Powers Boulevard. His rendition of St. Clare will be lit from within, with a subtle rainbow sheen, or oil slick finish, across its metal exterior. “We’re proud to have a strong statue of a strong visionary woman right in front of our hospital,” Lueck says.
Along with consolidating its best orthopedic and spine care in a single location, St. Francis-Interquest is expected to create greater flexibility within Centura’s larger network of care. “By concentrating our orthopedic care here, we create more space for our hospitals to deal with other life-threatening or emergent needs. That need was especially evident during the pandemic when we had a consistent need for bed space,” says Lindsay Radford, director of external and field communications. “By giving orthopedic care a dedicated space, we create more space in our operating rooms at St. Francis and Penrose hospitals, which is a win-win for our patients and physicians.”
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