UW News

December 8, 2010

Working in a construction zone: Hall Health continues serving clients

Jeff Fowler, right, a medical assistant for Hall Health who tracks progress of the clinic's remodeling project, talks with student visitors (from left) Angelena Dunn, Anneliese Cook and Mien-Quoc Ly. | Photo by Mary Levin.

“The remodel is generally progressing the way we hoped and expected,” says David  Dugdale, professor of medicine and the center’s director. “We’ve had minimal service problems.”

The center’s personnel have learned, literally, to do the same or more with less – space, that is. As parts of the 75-year-old building, which was last remodeled 35 years ago, have been stripped back to the supporting beams, the remaining space has been reorganized, with clinics and offices compressed.  Just about all service units within the center have been affected one way or another.

The remodel, which began this past summer, is expected to be completed toward the end of summer 2011. But some areas, such as the immunization clinic, are already back on line at full strength, albeit not yet in their final configuration. The women’s and sports medicine clinics are being reorganized as part of the project, but due to careful planning have remained open.

There have been some surprises when the walls have been opened up, such as more asbestos than was anticipated, Dugdale says. And of course, with a building of this age, some things are revealed that were not shown on the plans, such as extra layers of walls. But these have been mere hiccups in the work and have not caused significant delays or problems with safety or service.

The next major phase of the remodel is an addition to the building on the south side, which will break ground in a few weeks. It will add several thousand square feet on the ground and first floors. Space for the women’s health and sports medicine clinics will be increased, as will the primary care and family medicine clinics. Space for mental health services will increase to meet growing demand. Other services, such as preventive health and travel medicine, are also expected to grow.

The building’s main reception area, just off the west side entrance, is set to reopen in February. The configuration will be much more open and allow for a more effective waiting area that markedly improves patient privacy and flow.

“Our staff has worked very hard to ensure that students continue to have a high quality experience when they visit,” Dugdale says. A recent survey shows that staff are now less worried about negative effects on the quality of service during the remodel, although many staff were surprised by the amount of dust generated by the project – and perhaps also by the work underway nearby at the HUB. This has led to added efforts to keep the air quality healthy.

For the most part, staff have acclimated to working in or around construction areas, next to temporary walls and gutted clinics and offices. “Capital Projects and Environmental Health & Safety have helped tremendously, making sure that the project continues to be conducted in a way which ensures that staff, patients and contractors are all safe,” Dugdale says.

Hall Health receives more than 77,000 patient visits each year. In addition, annually, there are more than 7,500 interactions between students and consulting nurses, about 5,000 phone calls and e-mails from students, and 292 same-day mental health visits by students.

As part of the remodeling project, Environmental Health & Safety, which has its offices in the building, has consolidated its presence from three floors to two, trading some space with the Hall Health clinical practice.

The Hall Health Center remodel is funded by student fees. The project cost is about $10 million.