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Taking down a staircase, building patient care

Toronto, December 15, 2016

By Kate Manicom

The Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower at Queen and Victoria streets
The Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower at Queen and Victoria streets. Demolishing the Cardinal Carter South stairwell will allow the new tower to be connected to the existing hospital. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

At the corner of Queen and Victoria streets, the Peter Gilgan Patient Care Tower is closing in on its planned height of 17 storeys. The addition to St. Michael’s Hospital, specifically designed to care for critically ill patients, includes brand new spaces for emergency surgery, the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit, orthopedics and respirology, among others.

When it is linked to the existing hospital, efficient circulation routes between the wings will be created, and on some floors, new patient and family waiting areas will be built. But connecting the new addition to the existing hospital isn’t as simple as installing a door on each floor.

Between the hospital’s Cardinal Carter wing and the patient care tower is a 17-storey concrete stairwell, which must be taken down at the end of the year to complete construction on the tower and then link it to the hospital.

It is a complex project, requiring months of planning between teams in the hospital and the contractor responsible for the project.

Co-ordinating hospital operations during construction is led by the hospital’s Operational Readiness Department. Alongside teams from across the hospital, Operational Readiness makes sure that all equipment continues to work during the stairwell demolition and all other aspects of patient care continue, including infection prevention and control and housekeeping.

“Operational readiness is about making sure that each patient has the right care, in the right space, with the right equipment and technology, at the right time, regardless of construction activities in the hospital,” said Margaret Moy Lum-Kwong, director of Operational Readiness. “Months of planning have gone into making sure we have the right tools and processes to carry out this work.”

   
By the numbers:
  • Years built: 1994 and 1999
  • Volume of concrete: 2317 m3
  • Height of stairwell: 78.9 metres
  • Number of stairs: 410
  • Number of floors: 17
  • Tools for safety: vibration and sound monitoring

Every effort is being made to reduce disruptions during the project, including using alternative methods to remove the staircase. For example, separating the staircase away from the existing structure by sawcutting prior to crushing the concrete will help to reduce noise and vibrations from travelling through the building.

“By installing noise and vibration monitors in key locations in the adjacent areas of the hospital, and working closely with our contractor, we can ensure the impacts of this work remain at safe levels. If necessary, we can adjust our demolition methods,” said Tom Parker, senior project engineer for Planning and Redevelopment.

Particulates will also be carefully monitored. Stringent infection prevention and control measures will be in place, including installing hoarding and negative air machines to safeguard patients and others who are susceptible to infection.

“The stairwell has to come down so that we can finish building something great,” said Moy Lum-Kwong. “While at times the work may be a bit noisy, safety and patient care remain our top priorities.”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.