Flexible Patient Rooms Prepare Salem Hospital for COVID

Salem, MA – In 2009, Salem Hospital (formerly North Shore Medical Center) engaged CMTA to design a code complaint Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and inpatient bed units on multiple floors of the Davenport building.

Salem Hospital is part of the Mass General Brigham healthcare network. Located in Salem, the hospital is the largest emergency care facility on the North Shore, with 395 patient beds and an outpatient SurgiCenter.

Initially, the Davenport renovation was undertaken to address the challenges of the H1N1 or “Swine Flu” pandemic and to plan for future mass viral outbreaks. To address this challenge, CMTA worked with the hospital, clinical, administrative, and facility staff to design an innovative and unique HVAC system that enables patient rooms to operate either in normal patient mode or as negative pressurized isolation rooms. To properly care for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, the design allowed the hospital to be “surge ready” when the demand required multiple isolation rooms to be available.

The major renovation equipped the HVAC air distribution system to operate either in the isolation or normal mode. When a patient with an airborne infectious disease occupies a room, the isolation mode requires 12 Air Changes Per Hour (ACH) per the AIA Healthcare Guidelines and Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) regulations. When a patient without an airborne infectious disease occupies a room, only 6 ACH are required.

To accomplish this flexible design, each patient room has dedicated supply and exhaust air terminal devices as well as HVAC controls that include a keyed control panel located at the nurses’ station. The nursing staff can individually control the HVAC mode for each of these patient rooms. With the flip of a keyed switch, a standard patient room can be activated to operate as a pressurized isolation room.

Since the renovation’s completion in 2010, the unit has operated in isolation mode only 15% of the time. However, during major COVID-19 outbreak surges, the unit operated in isolation mode 100% of the time.

Having 15 flexible patient rooms that are “convertible and surge ready” to serve as negatively pressurized isolation rooms enabled Salem Hospital to be COVID-19 ready in January of 2020 without having to complete any fast-track HVAC retrofits, renovations, or temporary service locations which saved money and lives over the past 12 months.