What is the Aim
Using real-world findings from the current Coronavirus pandemic, the FleXX Hospital: Surge Scenario Report is based on learnings from rapid adaptations that have been made to facilities in the UK and US during this pandemic. The Flexx Hospital principles aim to create flexible facilities that enable day-to-day operations to continue alongside a pandemic – or other emergency – scenario, something that many healthcare facilities across the world have struggled with in the face of this outbreak. UK facilities in the current pandemic have actively reduced elective services (by as much as 85%) to free up resources needed for the pandemic response while other services, such as Accident & Emergency, have experienced dramatic reductions in attendances due to perceptions of facilities not being open for non-pandemic health issues, a concern of the risks related to visiting a hospital during a pandemic and a desire to not further burden the NHS.
What We Did
The Flexx Hospital has pandemic preparedness built in from the outset and challenges the notion that hospitals are fixed and static buildings, they should instead be flexible and adaptable. The FleXX Hospital model and its principles for flexible design (adhering to a regular grid, pulling vertical circulation and services cores to the perimeter, and standardising slab-to-slab heights by MEP requirements) are layered with strategies for pandemic preparedness; protecting the threshold, separating flows, and signposting risk, to examine how facility design can enable with both long- and short-term flexibility.
What We Found
The result is a proposal for a prototype facility designed to cope with a surge in patients with an infectious disease while safely maintaining the majority of regular health services for the general public. Through the distinct separation of flows regular operation can continue, minimising the risk of cross-infection while pandemic patients are accepted. 40% of the single patient rooms are equipped for double occupancy when needed, increasing the volume of surge a hospital can cope with while maintaining 50% of patient rooms for regular services.
What the Findings Mean
It will take time, possibly years, to assess the full impact of the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic. We do not yet fully understand the possible lasting effects on the economy or populations’ physical and mental health. What we do know is that we need to be prepared and be able to respond through known strategies and protocols next time.
The current UK government has pledged billions of pounds to re-build, build and upgrade over 60 hospitals and increase funding to the NHS. It is vital that the coming interpandemic period is used to prepare for the arrival of the next outbreak. These healthcare projects must consider pandemic preparedness as well as future readiness in their designs to ensure the best return on investment of public money.