Gesturing toward the hole that will become Stanford Hospital and Clinics' new hospital, Board of Directors Chair Mariann Byerwalter said it holds the promise of medical care and discovery to come.
"This hole is powerfully symbolic," she said. "It holds an infinite capacity for healing and discovery."
Hundreds of supporters attended the hospital's groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday afternoon. It included a reception and gift bags containing little chocolate shovels to commemorate the event.
Byerwalter, Stanford University President John Hennessy, hospital President and CEO Amir Dan Rubin, Dr. Lloyd Minor, Dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine and Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff took up red shovels for the ritual dig. Huge excavators loomed behind them, where a giant hole has been dug.
The 824,500-square-foot facility will include 368 rooms, oversized windows to afford patients a view of the surrounding foothills, a rooftop helipad, 17 operating rooms, five gardens, walking trails, a meditation room and a new Level 1 trauma center with 58 treatment bays that will be three times the size of the current emergency department.
The project is expected to be completed in 2017 and will open for patient care in early 2018. The new facility will connect with a re-purposed and retrofitted existing hospital through a bridge and tunnel.
The entire Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project is estimated to cost $5 billion, including $2 billion for the Stanford hospital, and $1.1 billion for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital expansion. The remaining costs include seismic retrofitting of the existing hospital, renovations and upgrades to the existing hospital facilities and utility upgrades on Welch Road.
"It's taken the entire community to get us to this point," Hennessy said.
At a time when health care is at a crisis in the country, the commitment to continue providing top medical care is significant, he added.
The original 1959 building was groundbreaking when it was built, but the hospital can't deliver the kind of innovative care it aspired to provide in the old structure, he said.
"I can't even guarantee you that in the next earthquake if you are a patient at that hospital that it will serve you very well," he said.
Rubin said the new hospital will keep "that Stanford edge" on quality medical care and innovation, with an emphasis on new technology that offers minimally invasive surgery.
The $1 billion Campaign for Stanford Medicine, which includes funding for the new building and invests in medical research and teaching, is at 73 percent of its total goal since its inception last May, with gifts from 13,000 individuals. Three donors made gifts of $50 million each: Tashia and John Morgridge, Anne and Robert Bass, and Christopher Redlich. Eight companies committed $200 million, including Apple, Cisco, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Intel Intuit, NVIDIA and Oracle.