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ICU mock-up

Judi Walker, center, director of Clinical Facilities Planning with SCL Health, directs a tour of a new intensive care unit mock-up for St. Vincent Healthcare staff.

More space, more natural light and a more efficient design can have a big impact on how quickly and effectively a patient laid up in an intensive care unit heals.

That's the idea behind a planned $18 million renovation of the St. Vincent Healthcare ICU, and on Wednesday the people who work there got a chance to see early designs and give input on a mock-up of the standard patient room.

"It takes us into the most current, state-of-the-art technology and opens up the rooms for patients and their families," said Susan Amundsen, St. Vincent ICU manager.

Set up in an off-campus building on the South Side, Wednesday's mock-up put employees in the middle of an early version of what a room in the new ICU will look like, giving them a first look and the chance to provide input and suggestions.

The new ICU will feature more open and larger rooms, upgraded technology and a more efficient design geared toward making room and accommodations for patients and families.

The expansion and renovation updates an ICU that was built more than 40 years ago. It will add about 3,000 square feet to the current ICU, which sits on the hospital's second floor, and increase the number of patient rooms from 22 to 24 while adding more than 100 square feet to, and in some cases doubling, each room's size.

That will include beds or other sleeping space in the rooms for loved ones.

"When the ICU was built in 1975, it was more physician or provider driven in the rooms than patient driven," said Megan Stovall, senior director of campaigns for the St. Vincent Healthcare Foundation, which is raising money for the renovation. "We know now that with their families around the patients, the healing process goes faster."

The employees who viewed the mock-up, set up in a cage-like support structure provided by medical technology company Hill-Rom, also had the opportunity to check out floor plans and a virtual tour from Billings-based CTA Architects Engineers.

Plans to renovate the ICU first went public in 2015 when the foundation used the annual SAINTS Ball fundraiser to raise $1 million to kickstart the fundraising effort.

The ICU today averages about 12.5 patients daily but projections suggest the daily need for beds will grow to about 20 in the next decade.

In addition to the larger rooms, Amundsen said the renovation will move the unit from a locked to an open model, which allows family members easier visiting access during a wider range of hours.

"It's really important to us," she said. "We've already put so much time and effort into this. We're doing this because we know it's best for our community to have a space that is amenable to patients and a family presence."

The first of four construction phases for the renovation is expected to begin in June or July and the entire project will likely finish in late 2018. At least 16 ICU beds will remain open and available for use throughout the entire construction process.