The brand-new building has a capacity of 80 beds for maternity, paediatric medicine and neonatal care. Antwerp University Hospital is the first and only hospital in Belgium to be able to bring specialists in gynaecology, paediatrics and intensive neonatal care into such close proximity under one roof. This greatly reduces the distances that future mothers need to be moved and specialists are closer together as well, which facilitates dialogue and information exchange.
From now on, the care providers and the Queen Mathilde Mother and Child Care Centre will be organised literally and figuratively around the mother and child, which of course had a significant impact on the technical aspects in the construction of the new wing. Dirk De Man, the head of technical services at the UZA and secretary of the VTDV (Vereniging voor Technische Diensthoofden in de Verzorgingsinstellingen or Association of Heads of Technical Services at Care Facilities) has a thorough knowledge of what was involved and explained it to us:
'There were tremendous technical challenges. Generally speaking, we wanted to ensure that the new building would be highly flexible and open. Thanks to the large expanses of glass, we have a lot of natural light, even in the rooms at the rear. But a lot of glass also means having to deal with heat issues. That is why we opted for extra-insulated glazing, and on the south face, we installed a second facade layer in glass with colour motifs. As the sun moves, the slats automatically follow so that the heat from the sun is blocked out. We also made use of colour in the sunshades to create an attractive and whimsical look overall. The new wing is built as an extension to the existing hospital block and is essentially a triangle with its largest facade on the north side so that there is plenty of natural light without heat from the sun. At the end of the building, there is a stream with greenery behind it, which makes a lovely view.'
The latest affordable technology was used to make the new hospital wing as energy-neutral as possible. In addition to the high quality lighting and LED technology from ETAP, and various systems for reducing energy consumption, a BES (borehole energy storage) field was also created in order to provide heating and cooling through heat pumps. 'On the facade, we used a combination of cement, insulation, metal sheeting and stucco. The latter ensures that the building is airtight, which is an extremely important factor for the quality of your K-value. The more unintentional ventilation, the more heating or cooling you need. Extremely large batteries supply low-temperature air handling units: air handling units which generate cooling at around 15 to 16° and heating at 40°. Ultimately we would like to reduce the flow temperature for cooling and heating throughout the entire hospital site in order to save energy.'
Pleasant and comfortable
The climate control ceilings in the rooms are another sustainable and energy-efficient element. 'We do not use radiators, but ceilings in which ducts are incorporated to channel cold or warm water in order to heat or cool. The plaster ceiling finishing has been retained because a patient or a mother probably doesn't want to have to stare up at a superstructure with holes and gratings.' Another typical aspect of the new vision of the centre, in which mother and child come first, are a whole range of baby-friendly elements to make the entire setting pleasant and comfortable. 'For example, children who come in for an appointment do not have to sit still in a waiting room. Weather permitting, they can play safely outdoors on the roof of the second floor. Our rooms are considerably larger than the standard (4.20 m x 6 m) because there is a sofa bed that can be used for visitors during the day and as a spare bed at night. The height of the children's bathtub can be adjusted electrically according to the height of the mother. The sanitary unit has glass walls at the top, allowing more natural light. The ceramic parquet flooring in the rooms gives a homely feeling and virtually all electrical outlets and connections have been removed from view. The doors are 2.50 m high, up to the ceiling: that also gives an open feel.'
'Another nice aspect are the drawings by Kaatje Vermeire that we have converted to prints. They are hanging in certain parts of the building and on the glass walls of the enclosures in the neonatal department. These cheerful colours, combined with the colourful glass panels of the sunshade, give the entire building a distinctive charm that does not immediately bring to mind a hospital,' continues De Man.
90-ton bridge with two levels
Quite a spectacular part of the structure of the new Mother and Child Care Centre in Edegem is the 90-ton bridge that has been installed between the existing UZA and the new building. 'It is a fully suspended structure that connects the hospital wing with the medical-technical section. It offers the fastest way of covering this distance. The two lowest levels will be kept clear for the fire department. The steel bridge has glass sides and was mounted in just four days, using special cranes. Because the entire site is built on swampland, the suspension of the bridge has also been specially adapted to the specific foundations.' This monumental walkway provides an umbilical cord, so to speak, to services such as the operating rooms and the radiology department in the main building.
The entire Mother and Child Care Centre has been developed around the concept of a 'healing environment' in which not only the clinical care but also the building and its immediate surroundings should help encourage patients to heal. Psychological stimulation is provided by colour, light and space, nature and tranquillity, proximity and a sense of security.
'The labour and delivery rooms are attractive spaces and Caesarean sections can also be performed in the new centre. The operating area is part of the labour and delivery room, so that expectant mothers barely have to shift location. All rooms in the neonatal department are monitored from a central point: the triangular structure offers the great advantage that even in the longest corridor, you have an instant overview of the entire space. You can very rapidly reach all the corners of the department.'
'The digital screens, which are replacing the traditional bell based call system, not only increase the mother's comfort but are also a major time-saver for the nursing and care staff. Calls are now sent directly to the care providers, which reduces the distance travelled and transport in the corridors. For consultations, we also have 35 information boxes: these provide a display to visitors of which doctor or department they need to go to. People are directed in a logical fashion, without needing to be accompanied by a staff member,' Dirk De Man concludes.
And one final note: in the future, the aim is for the maternity unit, neonatal department, paediatrics and hospitalisation to be further expanded to include paediatric neurology, gynaecology, genetics and paediatric immunology. These departments will be located on the fifth floor which is currently still empty. In this way, ultimately an entire new block on different levels will be created, all revolving around mothers and their children.
Ing. Dirk De Man
Head of technical services Antwerp University Hospital
Wilrijkstraat 10, 2650 Edegem, Belgium
Phone +32 3 821 31 33
Dirk.firstname.lastname@example.org / www.uza.be