'A long time coming': After 10 years in the works, the new Stanford Hospital hosts community open house this weekend

Locals to get sneak peek into $2 billion facility; official grand opening scheduled for late October

The new Stanford Hospital's main atrium rises several floors under a glass dome and is surrounded by four towers in which patients recuperate in private rooms. Photo by Veronica Weber.

In the cramped yet bustling waiting room of Stanford Hospital's emergency department, dozens of people sit in blue vinyl chairs waiting to see a doctor. Some are engrossed in their smartphones; others don masks to protect the roomful of visitors from their respiratory illnesses. A few arrive in wheelchairs, too injured, nauseous or dizzy to stand.

When this 1,142-square-foot room overflows, people wait on benches in the hall.

There's little privacy when the patient finally gets to see a physician in one of the emergency department's 54 treatment bays. A thin curtain separating each bed doesn't mask conversations or the sound of someone's rattling cough or the moans of an accident victim.

Nurses squeeze past each other in the examination bays. Medical staff navigate through labyrinthine spaces in which EKG machines and saline-drip stands co-mingle.

The emergency room, or ER, is a hectic place. Every square inch of the 18,069-square-foot space has been claimed by patients, equipment or staff.

"In the current ER, we're like a tight-knit family," Samuel Snell, emergency department assistant patient care manager, quipped during a recent August morning.

For Snell and other hospital personnel, the Stanford emergency room capacity has been outpaced by the region's rapidly growing population. It outgrew its space long ago.

But in less than two months, the new Stanford Hospital will be opening and with it a 42,692-square-foot ER and regional trauma center with a shiny, cavernous hallway and 66 private treatment rooms. (See more in "Readying for any disaster.")

"The new emergency department is the full length of a football field from goal post to goal post," Snell said.

Snell toured the command center/nurses station, from which staff can see through the glass walls of the ER's individual patient rooms to monitor the ill. In one ER room, doctors and staff can consult and strategize in complex cases using mannequins and computer models to simulate medical conditions. They can also video-conference with specialists on the other side of the world.

The new ER and trauma center is part of a $2 billion expansion a decade in the making. After receiving approvals in 2011, the project broke ground at 500 Pasteur Drive in May 2013. Stanford built the new hospital in part to fulfill a state seismic mandate for all hospitals by 2030 — a major impetus for the new hospital and retrofitting the old one. (The renovations inside the existing hospital at 300 Pasteur Drive are scheduled to be complete in 2025.)

The 824,000-square-foot new hospital adds 368 private rooms, for a total of 600 beds on the whole hospital campus, three acres of surgical floor space, 20 operating rooms, specialized diagnostic equipment to scan patients adjacent to the operating room and more than four acres of gardens.

The public will have a chance to tour the hospital during two community days this weekend, Sept. 14-15. Though pre-registration for tours on both days is full, there will be a limited number of tour openings each day for walk-ins; those interested can go to the on-site registration booth.

Aside from taking the tour, the public can attend the community fair on the hospital's grounds on both days, but pre-registration is required. (Scroll down to the bottom of the story for more information on the community fair.) Events will include a photo booth, opportunities to ask an expert questions, a teddy-bear triage center where kids can make a take-home bear, a larger-than-life game of Operation, face painting, a treasure hunt, music, food trucks and more.

The prospect of the hospital's opening stirred palpable excitement among nurses walking through the new ER on the morning of Snell's tour.

"When I came to Stanford 30 years ago, they said they were going to build a new hospital. Now, it's finally happened," Patrice Callagy, executive director of emergency services, said as she accompanied staff through the new ER.

The expansion is long overdue, Callagy said. The Stanford ER receives 210 patients per day on average in a facility built in 1959 to handle only 70. During influenza season, that number rises to 250. Annually, the ER handles more than 78,000 patients; by the end of next year, staff estimate they'll be handling up to 90,000 patients, said Courtney Lodato, director of communications for the renewal project. The lack of space causes the current ER staff to triage flu patients in a tent in the parking lot.

The overcrowding isn't confined to the ER. As recently as two weeks ago, all of the old hospital's beds were full, Callagy said. Annually, the existing hospital has nearly 27,000 inpatients, who stay overnight or longer.

Staff refer to the old and new hospital buildings by their addresses: 300 Pasteur and 500 Pasteur drives, respectively. Located a stone's throw from the old hospital's iconic fountains and pool, 500 Pasteur is envisioned as a healing community, the "new model" of patient care, according to staff: inclusive of family; using technology to give patients a greater ability to communicate with their medical team and more control over their care; designed with flexible spaces so the hospital can be adjusted to meet changing needs; and incorporating nature and art to aid healing.

Read more in "Technology makes hospital more efficient — and safe."

Creating calm and beautiful spaces

Visitors to 500 Pasteur walk into a soaring, three-story atrium. The glass-domed, light-infused entry in travertine, terrazzo and sand-colored tones and wood looks more like a posh hotel or museum than a hospital.

Comfortable seating, internet stations, coffee and magazines have replaced the old hospital's long, polished entry hallways with patients in wheelchairs and on gurneys.

Two wings on the new hospital's ground floor contain a main cafeteria with floor-to-ceiling windows and outdoor seating, a gift shop and patient-discharge lounge.

Visitors who enter the atrium won't see sick patients being wheeled around. Imaging rooms lie behind walls off of the atrium; the second floor is dedicated to operating rooms.

Four floors of patient rooms surround the atrium in four buildings laid out in a cross pattern. Through a patient room window on the fourth floor, the Santa Cruz Mountains stretch out in an expanse of greenery. On summer afternoons, fog drapes over the conifer forest in cottony folds.

Patients in all rooms have views of the mountains, the Stanford campus and foothills or the San Francisco Bay through picture windows, and each room is private.

Jennifer Winder, public relations manager for planning design and construction, admired the views on a recent Thursday.

"There's not a bad room in the house," she said.

Scientific evidence has shown that nature positively affects healing, she noted.

According to groundbreaking scientific studies by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich, patients who had window views of greenery or who viewed murals of natural scenes experienced more positive emotional feelings, had less stress, fear, anger and sadness and had lower blood pressure, better heart activity, less muscle tension and more positive brain electrical activity. Some research has found these positive outcomes occurred in as little as three to five minutes, Ulrich, of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A & M University, noted in a 2002 paper.

Art has been used as a healing influence at Stanford for decades, and the new building will feature 400 works of art.

In the early 1980s, a volunteer group began acquiring and hanging art on Stanford Hospital's walls with the idea that art could enhance recovery — something that Ulrich later proved.

Ulrich's studies also showed patients healed faster when they viewed photographs of nature rather than artwork of other kinds. The new hospital has mural-sized photographs of forests and trees to reinforce the presence of a soothing outer world, Winder said.

Stanford has gone even further to incorporate the healing power of nature into its hospital setting. The hospital's third-level garden floor contains four acres of gardens, walking trails, a meditation room, family resource center, a dining room and an assembly hall for lectures and all-staff meetings. It is designed to be a respite from the clinical setting for patients, families and employees. The five gardens are filled with native California and other flowering plants.

On the ground level outside the emergency room, there are more verdant spaces to soothe the visitor. Crews have planted an 85-tree orchard that includes fruit, nuts and flowering trees. Gingko, loquat, apricot, olive buckeye and live oaks were selected for fruit-bearing or medicinal properties in eastern, western and native cultures.

The orchard has a shady retreat for patients, families and staff and a dog park with a water fountain and a fire hydrant for visiting pets.

The power of simple places of respite isn't lost on Chad Reeder, controls manager at the new hospital.

"I asked a mom what she likes best about Stanford Hospital, and she said, 'Starbucks — that's the one time of day I can grab coffee'" and have time to herself, he said.

The new hospital's patient-care model also focuses on integrating the family into the patient's care and supports families' needs, Winder added.

"There's no more visiting hours. Family can stay overnight," she said.

Each room has a comfortable nook with a table and sofa that converts into a bed for a family member.

Patients will also experience a bit more quiet on the hospital floor. Sound buffering at the nurses stations helps reduce noise, she said.

David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care, said the features he finds most compelling for patients include the private room and bedside technology. The latter empowers patients to have more control over their care.

Each room has a 55-inch television screen and an iPad at the bedside. The patient can see his or her care team's information, and there are apps on the iPad to order food from the cafe. Patients can operate the lighting and stream video conferences with their doctors and families.

Patients often have a sense of losing control over their care and lack the ability to connect with the outer world in the hospital setting, Entwistle said.

"If you can take the technology we use on a daily basis and use it for patient care, that's exciting," he said.

A grand opening with ribbon cutting is scheduled for late October. More information is available at

A Q&A video with CEO David Entwistle is available here.

Dr. George Tingwald of Stanford Health Care, joins Weekly staff to discuss the planning that went into building the new Stanford Hospital on an episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

New Stanford Hospital tour and Community Days

When: Sept. 14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sept. 15, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Where: 500 Pasteur Drive, Stanford.

Pre-registration: Required, at

Cost: Free.

Activities: Events will include a photo booth, ask-an-expert opportunities, a teddy-bear triage center where children can make and take home a bear, a larger-than-life game of Operation, face painting, a treasure hunt, music, food trucks and more. Online registration for the walking tour of the hospital is closed, but a limited number of spaces are expected to be available each day through on-site registration. The event will also include a digital virtual walking tour of the hospital with limited seating.

Parking: Parking is available at a lot and a garage at Stock Farm and Oak roads, a short walk or shuttle ride to the hospital. A map is available here.

Other info: Stanford will post the virtual tour after the event on the website


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6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2019 at 10:29 am

I'm very glad about the new ER and the seismic safety of the new building at 500 Pasteur. I hope that the seismically unsafe 300 Pasteur will eventually be removed/replaced. I have the impression that parts will remain open to staff (not the public). I hope for the sake of the staff and community that my impression is incorrect, and that -all- earthquake-vulnerable structures will be removed.

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2019 at 10:50 am

Resident is a registered user.

All well and good, but since Stanford and Anthem apparently could not come to a deal, anyone that has Anthem health insurance can no longer go to Stanford. I’ve been using them for 30 years (ER, to have my kids, etc) since grad school, but I guess now I can’t. Just got the letter this week.

If you also have Anthem, I guess I’ll see you at El Camino Hospital next time I’m there.

8 people like this
Posted by Local
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

I love the emphasis on connection with the natural world and how important it is for healing. The down side is that patients will be sent home in bumper to bumper traffic to their airplane-noise- and pollution-filled neighborhoods and schools with less and less connection with nature LOL....

Stanford has agreed to honor insurance prices during negotiations, so hopefully you don't need to interrupt your care.

I'm glad for this new facility, but really wish that Stanford would create some kind of interim facility for urgent, non-emergent care that the local urgent care centers can't accommodate, such as imaging on a semi-urgent basis after business hours. Got sent to ER for that very thing, and refused to go if I had to be an emergency patient, but the urgent care team assured me that wasn't the case and that their medical instructions and records would translate instantly to Stanford (they were wrong).

If you go to the ER and it's not an emergency, even if you tell them that up front, and that the urgent care team says everything is in the shared electronic system, they subject you to the whole rigamarole (and say it's necessary, but they don't tell you they are going to ignore why you think you're there) and then treat you like a hypochondriac who self-referred to emergency (including things that are just hell when you aren't feeling well), while also chastising you being a bad patient for refusing the unnecessary perfunctory blood draws and catheter insertions. Then they send you a $5,000 bill without ever giving you the imaging you were sent there for. (To cap the indignities in my case, the security guard wouldn't let me leave because I couldn't walk a straight line, saying I needed my "medication" to wear off -- when I wasn't on any meds, the unsteadiness/dizzyness was one of the symptoms I had been sent there for imaging for in the first place! The perils of medical care while while buildings don't fix that.)

Walk-in family medicine centers and urgent care centers definitely filled a big gap in care, but there is still a big gap between urgent care and emergency care. Emergency rooms should really be there for serious emergencies and traumas, and there really needs to be a separate program/facility to do evaluation for the many situations where one's doctor kneejerk says "go the ER" and as a patient you have to weigh alone whether you are risking a serious consequence by not getting an emergency addressed, or risking your mental health/financial health/getting treated really badly in the future by going to the ER without it ending up being an emergency. Just last week I was advised to go to emergency and gambled that the latter side of the equation would be worse and didn't go. I'm still having trouble with my vision, but don't want to lose their taking it seriously if it turns into a more obvious emergency (and told my doctor so). Their nurse knew exactly what I meant.

It would really help if there was an interim "triage" that could involve real medical evaluation, something between urgent care and emergency, with better coordination of care between local practitioners and medical centers (like PAMF) and Stanford.

Anyway, Congratulations on the beautiful new center, and thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make it happen.

1 person likes this
Posted by Traffic impacts?
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 13, 2019 at 6:47 pm

Traffic impacts? is a registered user.

The whole area will benefit from this wonderful new facility, most especially when the big earthquake happens. It also sounds as if being a patient in the new hospital might be a completely completely different experience than the 13 hours of sleep I got over one five day visit to Stanford because of a noisy patient in the next bed with visitors talking through the night, to say nothing of the the constant night time clatter and loud voices in the hallway outside the room!

However, since this new hospital will be larger with more employees, can we expect more congestion along El Camino, especially at the intersection with and on Embarcadero during the morning and evening commute? Especially ambulances needing to get through. Or is it anticipated that because so many hospital and clinic staff work different shifts from normal office hours, there won't be much impact?

6 people like this
Posted by Jack will not be happy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2019 at 8:51 pm

Traffic impacts-- The intersection of El camino and Embarcadero has been screwed up for over a decade and the city has done nothing to address the problems. I guess they believe the old palo alto mantra-- if you decrease lanes and impede traffic the cars will just disappear. That has worked out well.
I think the only person who may be unhappy with the new hospital will be former councilmember jack morton-- he opposed the new cancer center and about a decade ago he paid for a pamphlet attacking Stanford.

1 person likes this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 13, 2019 at 10:00 pm

They must charge arm and leg for each patient. I suspect that federal and state government will have to pay for most it, through Medicare and Medicaid. It's like building a 5-star hotel and then ask the government to pay for guest stays. Is that a good thing?

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2019 at 8:03 am

Posted by m2grs, a resident of Midtown

>> They must charge arm and leg for each patient. I suspect that federal and state government will have to pay for most it, through Medicare and Medicaid. It's like building a 5-star hotel and then ask the government to pay for guest stays. Is that a good thing?

Google this:

"california state mandate seismic upgrades hospitals"

4 people like this
Posted by old enough to remember
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 14, 2019 at 12:58 pm

So this newspaper has an article on the new hospital without even once mentioning the who the architect that planned it is. It is very well planned and for that you need an extraordinary architec.

Rafael Viñoli, the justly celebrated architect who planned so many well thought out buildings is the architect.

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2019 at 9:16 pm

^ Manhattan's 432 Park Avenue is one of those well thought out buildings. 125 condos.
Same footprint as Palo Alto City Hall. Would please Sacramento for our housing crisis.

Rafael Viñoly: "There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing."

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2019 at 1:46 pm

>> Rafael Viñoly: "There are only two markets, ultraluxury and subsidized housing."

Web Link

From the NY Times. Note the date on that: May 2013. While "gentrification" used to be sometimes good and sometimes bad, but, not -always- a bad thing, this new form that New York and SF + Peninsula have been suffering is something else. "Gentrification Squared" I guess, in this new Gilded Age.

1 person likes this
Posted by Paul
a resident of another community
on Sep 18, 2019 at 1:00 pm

Does this, "is equipped to handle a magnitude-8 earthquake and any other mass-casualty incident," mean that they can handle the projected number of casualties (from a magnitude-8 earthquake elsewhere in the area); or that the building will still be usable after a magnitude-8 earthquake which hits Stanford; or both?
As written, it is ambiguous

Like this comment
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:35 am

Now you know where all your healthcare money is going.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:40 am

Posted by Paul, a resident of another community

>> Does this, "is equipped to handle a magnitude-8 earthquake and any other mass-casualty incident," mean that they can handle the projected number of casualties (from a magnitude-8 earthquake elsewhere in the area); or that the building will still be usable after a magnitude-8 earthquake which hits Stanford; or both?

Both, one hopes, but, the number of people needing treatment after an earthquake is somewhat difficult to predict. The fate of the old hospital in a massive earthquake was easier to predict. Hospitals all over the state have been undergoing upgrades, rebuilds, and replacements as required by the 1994 version of the Seismic Safety Act -- Web Link -- not easy to do, depending on the site. Lots of status detail here for anyone who wants it: Web Link

I guess it is the Twitter Age that we live in, but, many hospitals seem to be marketing the shiny new aspect to the upgrades, rather than the "seismic" aspect. I guess because people would rather not think about earthquakes and safety. I don't agree with this approach myself. We know that these new facilities are being paid for somehow, and, that the money somehow came out of the cost of care, directly, indirectly, or through charities and wealthy donors who could have spent the money on care. Therefore, I think people should understand that there is a very, very good reason all this money was spent. Google will discover thousands of pages about this, but, here is one regarding the 1971 Sylmar quake, which was a medium 6.5 quake:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:45 am

Posted by Me 2, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Now you know where all your healthcare money is going.

Web Link

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