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Courtesy of Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine announced plans to build a new 500-bed Pavilion for the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania across the street from its current location earlier this month. At a price of $1.5 billion, this is Penn's largest financial investment in its history. 

The Daily Pennsylvanian looked into how exactly this money will be spent and how the expansion will influence the experiences of medical students at Penn. 

While the new Pavilion will include 500 new beds, HUP will likely see a net increase of only about 150 beds, according to the Chief Executive of Penn’s health system Ralph Muller, because many semi-private rooms in the current facility will be made private. The current facility contains 789 beds, according to US News and World Report.   

Chief Operating Officer of the Department of Surgery at HUP Deborah Rose said that the new Pavilion will also include a new emergency department and 47 operating rooms when it opens in 2021. 

The newest building at HUP is 20 years old, and many others are even older, HUP Chief Executive Officer Regina Cunningham said. She called many of the facilities “adequate, but not optimal."

Rose agreed, adding that the hospital treatments are different now than they were years ago. She said she believes HUP’s upgrade will better serve patients today. 

Cunningham also noted that because HUP is a major teaching hospital with many students present during much of its medical work, the upgrades will present more diverse learning opportunities for them.

Both Rose and Cunningham highlighted that the hospital functions with “care teams,” a medical phenomenon that Rose said Penn has pioneered. Rose described care teams as groups of professionals who follow patients through their entire care experiences. 

The Pavilion will feature “teaming” spaces, Cunningham explained, to allow teams to congregate and collaborate, a contrast from many of HUP’s current structures that don’t promote teamwork as well.

“There’s a lot of people in the hallway. There’s a lot of equipment in the hallway,” Cunningham said. "It can tend to be more crowded."

Cunningham said she believes the need for team care will increase in the future as medicine becomes more complex. She said a key component in building the Pavilion was considering the future of hospitals, as this structure will be part of HUP for the next 50-100 years.

For students, this means that they will have an opportunity to experience the future of health care, she said.

“I think it will be an incredible advantage,” Cunningham said. 

Rose added that the Pavilion's rooms will have the latest technology — such as new imaging devices — which will broaden students’ skill bases and expose them to the latest products in health care.

Some are worried that the hospital's expansion might add unnecessary hospital beds in Philadelphia, Philly.com reported. According to the US News and World Report, the top 10 (out of 91) hospitals within 25 miles of the city have almost 5500 beds.

However, rising Nursing junior Julianne Smolyn said patients come to HUP for special care they can’t receive at a local level, which sustains its patient flow. 

Smolyn worked at HUP as part of her coursework and said that, in her experience, HUP was always crowded. She worked in the labor and delivery unit, which she said sometimes ran out of beds and patients had to be relocated to other units of the hospital.

Sarah Shin — a rising Nursing senior who also worked at HUP for her coursework — had the same experience in the oncology department.

Cunningham agreed and added that an even greater increase in beds is still a possibility, as HUP is waiting until the Pavilion moves closer to opening to choose a specific number of double rooms to convert. 

Some hospitals are thriving and others are struggling, Cunningham said, and many individuals need HUP’s “unique” care.

Cunnigham looks forward to having students work in HUP’s new Pavilion.

“It’ll be a wonderful resource,” she said. “We look forward to welcoming them to the Pavilion."

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