New $754M Indy hospital offers sun-filled design

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Indiana has never seen a hospital quite like this.

From the spiraling wooden sculpture suspended from the ceiling in the main concourse to the vegetable garden on the roof, the brand-new Eskenazi Hospital in Indianapolis keeps you wondering what you will see around the next corner.

The $754 million hospital, which will serve mostly poor and underinsured patients, is nearly ready to open, after four years of planning and construction. The public was able to tour the hospital Saturday during an open house.

eskenazi 15 colThe main entry hall of the new Eskenazi Health Hospital welcomes visitors with plenty of natural light. (Indianapolis Star/Matt Kryger)

The massive complex, spread out on 37 acres, will replace Wishard Hospital, a deteriorating hodgepodge of buildings, some a century old. On Dec. 7, an army of hospital workers will move patients from the old building to the new one a block away.

The new hospital is the latest addition to Indiana's hospital construction boom over the last decade, a period in which more than $1 billion in new facilities sprouted up around central Indiana, from specialty heart clinics to luxurious medical centers in the suburbs.

Each of Indiana's dozens of hospitals seems to have a distinctive personality, from the luxurious Indiana University Health North Hospital in Carmel, with posh fireplace lounges and cherry wood bassinets, to the kid-friendly Riley Hospital for Children, with its signature red wagons and play rooms.

The feel at Eskenazi Hospital is bright and welcoming. Sunlight pours through windows in every patient room, waiting room and hallway. The public areas are filled with colorful art, from historical oil paintings to whimsical photographs of the city.

The goal, officials say, is to be comforting for people entering the doors for what is often a frightening, high-stress experience.

"We want this to be the most patient-friendly, family-friendly, simple-to-use hospital you can find," Matthew R. Gutwein, president and chief executive of Marion County Health and Hospital Corp., which operates the hospital, told The Indianapolis Star.

Eskenazi is much easier to navigate than Wishard. The hallways are straight, with 90-degree turns, unlike the endless twists and turns through the maze of adjoining buildings at Wishard. The elevators are color-coded, giving you clues to the right floor.

Inside and out, the hospital has distinctive touches. The front of the building features tall decorative fins that shimmer colorful light. The windows in almost every room or hallway give an impressive view of a garden, park or the downtown skyline.

The patient rooms are an impressive upgrade from the cramped, dated rooms at Wishard. All patient rooms are private, and only a few steps from the bathroom. Each room has a pullout couch for family members who want to spend the night.

Up on the rooftop, a 5,000-square-foot "Sky Farm" features a produce and flower garden laid out in neat rows. A nearby shed is filled with gardening tools. Patients and employees will be able to plant and pick fruits, vegetables and flowers, or just sit on a bench and gaze at the horizon.

"It's the kind of thing that keeps your spirits up, instead of just languishing in a hospital room," said Dr. Lisa Harris, the hospital's chief executive and medical director.

A grove of trees welcomes patients to the emergency room. A park in the front of the building, still under construction, will feature water gardens and a snack bar.

"It's a beautiful, contemporary hospital, but I wouldn't call it extravagant or glamorous," said Douglas Leonard, president of the Indiana Hospital Association. "There are lots of thoughtful details to make the whole place welcoming to the people they serve."

Eskenazi Hospital is being funded by a mix of private gifts and public money. The bulk of the money comes from a bond issue that Marion County voters approved in 2009, and $150 million the system had put aside in cash.

The hospital also raised tens of millions of dollars in private gifts, including $40 million from commercial real estate developer Sidney Eskanzi and his wife, Lois. The new hospital is named in their honor. A sculpture of the couple sits in the main concourse.

The new hospital will house a Level 1 trauma center (one of two in the state), the region's only adult burn unit, 17 operating rooms, 315 beds, an emergency department with more than 90 treatment rooms and 12 labor and delivery rooms.

Officials say the medical technology and the architecture make the hospital a worthy successor to Wishard, which has served the community by various names since 1859. Some of the artwork from the old building has moved to the new hospital.

"We wanted to make this beautiful and unique," Gutwein said. "But we didn't want to forget our history. We want to look forward while honoring where we came from."


  • No tax money
    Unless there have been changes since the bond issue, the taxpayers are not footing the bill. The bond issue will be repaid through cost savings and revenues that Wishard/Eskenazi receives from its nursing homes. This bond was approved by the voters. The hospital serves a lot of people who couldn't afford healthcare otherwise through its Health Advantage plan. Many of these folks do not qualify for Medicaid. In addition, a great number of people work for the hospital who live in the community. Their tax dollars help to keep up the city and its programs just like the rest of us. I personally know several construction workers (in all fields) who had jobs during the financial crisis only because of the building of the new hospital. At the time, the private sector was not building. For them, the timing of the hospital was a blessing as the hospital will be for the community for many years to come. Disclosure: I don't work for the hospital or any organization affiliated with it.
  • Priorities
    I would rather have tax money go towards something like this than a football stadium (or two), which someone will likely convince us is outdated in 20 years.
    • Short sighted..
      Wilbur and Nick's comments are short-sighted, which to me means that they lack vision. You fellas act like you personally took a huge hit out of your wallets for this impressive facility. Fact is, it cost you very little but our community has gained a huge new asset. I can understand the cumulative effect that miscellaneous public works projects have on taxes, but for a needed project like this - and the fact that this hospital will last at least 50 to 75 years - you should really reconsider your belly-aching. Or is it that you are just negative people looking to complain about something... ? Maybe you would like to live in the former USSR, where all buildings build "for the people" were substandard, boring and depressing...
    • Adequate, Not Extravagant
      Baxter, I am supportive of this new safety net hospital, however, I believe the non profit hospitals (IU Health/St Vincents/Community/etc..) should earn there tax exempt status by providing those safety net services outlined in their mission statements to care for the poor themselves, instead of shuffling off these "unprofitable patients" to our new 100% taxpayer funded hospital,as they hide profits in their "for profit" subsidiaries. I also believe taxpayer funds should be used wisely with well structured deals for adequate, not extravagant purposes.
    • Safety Net
      Guys like Nick and Wilbur are always quick to criticize until they actually need safety net type services. (Then I bet you don't hear a peep of criticism)
    • fresh vegetables for the cafeteria cut cost
      is it a crime to have a fresh vegetables and nice peaceful place for employees and patients . always negative people when someone tries to do something different.
    • $754 Million
      Glad they updated the hospital, however they clearly spent too much for a new hospital that has fewer operating rooms & less hospital beds than the previous hospital. Comparable hospitals were completed for MUCH less. Clearly they overbudgeted this public works project to brag about its art collection & rooftop garden, not to mention all new medical equipment. Now they want to start another high priced public works project to keep the pipeline full for the pay to play contractors with a new $300+ Million Indianapolis Criminal Justice Center, even though they still cant explain or demonstrate any cost savings from combining the IPD & Sheriff or the millions wasted on the IMPD regional operations center boondoggle. http://www.ibj.com/new-754m-indy-hospital-offers-sun-filled-design/PARAMS/article/44653
    • Banana Republic
      Why can't they just name it "Taxpayer Hospital". Why is a Sky Farm medically necessary? In this country we continue to rape and pillage taxpayers. What a Banana Republic!

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