Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

Stanford University Medical Center Renewal and Replacement Project


Modernizing medicine

Hospitals’ improvements will accommodate patient needs

Fall 2007

Play eases the anxiety of Bernard Dannenberg's young patient.


While heading to downtown Palo Alto on a weekday morning, Nancy Peterson was thrown to the pavement when her bicycle collided with a car. She was spared from a head injury by her bike helmet, but she suffered painful fractures to two vertebrae in her spine.

Brought by paramedics to Stanford’s Emergency Department, Peterson waited to see a doctor while other patients with more urgent needs were treated. Stanford Hospital was completely full that day, so following the initial treatment, Peterson waited in the ER until evening to be admitted. Four days later she was released from the hospital, outfitted with a custom body brace.

“Even before my accident I was a proponent for the hospital improvements, and now my resolve is even stronger,” said Peterson. “I left the hospital well positioned to heal properly. Our community is fortunate that Stanford plans to expand to serve our health care needs.”

The hospital improvements Peterson and other Peninsula residents can look forward to are detailed in a plan submitted in August to the City of Palo Alto. The plan assures that community members needing medical services will be able to count on Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital having the room to care for them whenever they are sick or injured.

Patient access, comfort

The plan was initiated both by the need to bring the medical center’s 50-year-old facilities into compliance with California’s seismic safety laws and by the growing demand for services that has forced both hospitals to send patients elsewhere. The opportunity to rebuild and renovate facilities will also ensure that the local community has ready access to 21st century medical technologies and patient care practices.

“At every step, what we have discovered is that in all aspects of clinical care, technology requires more clinical space,” said Mark Tortorich, vice president of planning, design and construction for Stanford Hospital and Packard Children’s.

Under the proposal, Stanford Hospital would add 144 beds and increase space for operating rooms, patient waiting areas, imaging and other patient services. The Emergency Department, which serves both hospitals in addition to being the only Level-1 trauma center between San Francisco and San Jose, would triple in size. Packard Children’s Hospital would add new operating rooms and 104 beds to accommodate its growing patient needs. Both hospitals now are operating at full capacity; in 2006, some 700 patients were sent to neighboring hospitals because of lack of bed space.

In the new facilities, all patients would be housed in single-bed rooms, which have become the standard for hospitals nationwide, Tortorich said. “Having a private room limits the spread of infection,” he added. “It creates a quieter environment for rest, which is a big issue for patients. And it accommodates the family and visitors, which is important to the healing process.”

Room for technology

Modernized facilities will enable the two hospitals to accommodate rapidly advancing technology that will directly benefit patients. For instance, the new Emergency Department will be equipped with its own imaging equipment so that physicians can diagnose and treat problems faster. The operating rooms, which are currently 60 percent of the standard size nationally, would be expanded to accommodate large monitors and other tools that surgeons use to visualize tissues in the body.

Tortorich noted that surgical technology has evolved in much the same way as technology in the home, where elaborate entertainment centers that require more space have replaced low-profile television sets with rabbit ears.

“It’s the same for surgeons,” he said. “They may blow up an image on a large TV screen to better visualize an area of the body.”

The project also includes the replacement of 50-year-old laboratory space in the School of Medicine with state-of-the-art facilities to speed up research, helping to turn new discoveries into treatments for patients. The Hoover Pavilion, original site of the 1931 hospital, will be renovated to house community physicians now located on Welch Road and for related clinical uses.

Community benefit

To accommodate the redevelopment, the medical center has proposed rezoning the area around the project as a new hospital district. The district would acknowledge the special requirements of the hospitals and would ensure that the project does not set a precedent for other developments in Palo Alto, Tortorich said.

The project is now making its way through the City of Palo Alto’s environmental review process. The review process will address traffic issues, and visual and other impacts, and will ensure that the public has numerous opportunities to comment on the proposed project.
“Stanford University Medical Center believes these changes will bring important benefits to the community. We are grateful for the support many community members already have expressed for assuring the availability of health care for local residents, and we look forward to continuing to work with the community,” said Shelley Hebert, executive director of public affairs for Stanford Hospital & Clinics.

Community members who have comments or questions or who would like to schedule a presentation can contact Kay Wilson at or 650-725-2960. For more information or for updates, see the project Web site,

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