A Medical City in the City: Erasmus MC’s Vision of an Academic Hospital

On 13th and 14th April I had the privilege to attend Erasmus Medical Center’s newbuild2018 congress: a celebration of the planning, design, engineering, construction, thought and sheer hard work that has led to the rebuilding – and re-imagining – of an entire academic hospital campus.

Over the course of two days over 170 people had the opportunity to contribute to a multitude of workshops which explained the complex processes involved, over a period stretching back many years, in creating the physical infrastructure which now supports the vision of truly patient-focused hospital care.  Following our discussions, we had the rare opportunity to visit the academic hospitals wards, administrative areas and technical installations, just one month before patients and staff move in.  In some ways, seeing the finished product just before it is in use gives a false impression, a sense that the physical environment and all its attendant and smart technology, somehow sprang into being effortlessly.  Nothing could be further from the truth, of course.  The directors, clinicians, architects, engineers and administrators who ran the workshops and conducted the tours were very open about the difficulties they encountered along the way, including some set-backs and difficult decisions.  Nonetheless, their pride in the final achievement was very clear.  Together with their many partners, including Rotterdam City Council, the end result is a hugely impressive amalgam of building design, care pathway decisions, technological innovation and process engineering.  Just to give a flavour of the scale of the new hospital project, we are talking about:

  • 207,000 m2 gross floor area
  • 15,000 m2 of laboratory space
  • Tower: 120 meters, 29 floors
  • Hospital: 48 meters, 12 floors
  • 46 lifts
  • More than 7.5 km of sun protection
  • More than 2200 piles
  • More than 2 million m3 of air exchange per hour
  • 2500 km of data cabling for various systems
  • 2 roof gardens (approx. 3,000 m2) on the 8th floor

If you want the full picture, you can download the 2016 book of the project, in English, here , and have a look at the introductory video for the congress delegates, here.  And if you’d like to take your own, virtual tour of the hospital, you can watch a short video, here (subtitles in English), which introduces you to the public spaces, the single patient rooms (with ‘rooming in’ facilities), the arrangement of outpatient clinics and day case centres, the functional layering of the hospital, and much, much more besides.

It isn’t easy to provide a single, overarching impression of the new Erasmus MC from a 1.5 day visit, partly because there was so much information to process and consider, and partly because one would need much longer to fully appreciate all the features.  However, having said that, I was very impressed with what seemed to be a genuine and comprehensive attempt to see things from the point of view of patients and families, but also to provide staff with a high quality environment.  You could see this in the most basic functions: car parking at the level of the main entrance, for example, to make access as easy as possible; or in the ample provision of shops, restaurants and cafes in the main concourse and the attention to detail in the landscaping of the roof gardens.  But these considerations extend everywhere, even to the ‘hot floor’ areas where, for instance, the building’s designers have ensured that every operating theatre has natural light.

The new Erasmus MC is an amazing achievement: a medical city, within a city but intimately connected to it.

Jonathan Erskine

Executive Director, European Health Property Network