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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC Hospitals are getting an upgrade with new surgical tower

UNC graduate Alice Huang donates blood at the Blood Donation Center at UNC Hospitals in June 2016.
UNC graduate Alice Huang donates blood at the Blood Donation Center at UNC Hospitals in June 2016.

UNC Hospitals will begin constructing a new surgical tower this August. The tower will be the single largest building on the UNC Hospitals campus at 335,000 sq. ft.

In July 2016, UNC Hospitals received site approval to build the tower south of the Ambulatory Patient Care Facility. The plan was shown to the Board of Trustees in November 2017, and the project was presented for design approval at the March 2018 Board of Trustees meeting.

Other sites were considered but the tower will now be constructed directly in front of the N.C. Memorial Hospital, where there is currently only a parking lot. This location should reduce the cost of the project while also staying out of the way nearby ambulance bays during its construction. 

The operating rooms that are currently being used were constructed in 1952. According to a press release the new surgical tower will replace the aging facilities which are small by modern standards, especially for complex operations that require large teams of surgeons and do not meet current code or recommended guidelines.

“It is definitely a need for UNC to develop and build this OR tower so that we can have state of the art operating rooms, so that we can provide the patients of North Carolina the state-of-the-art care, high-quality state of the art care,” said Dr. Melina Kibbe, chairperson of the department of surgery, previously to the DTH in September 2016.

“The program for the 7-story surgical tower will include 24 operating rooms, waiting rooms on each floor, 56 pre/post-operative care areas that are adjacent to the ORs and 56 ICU beds,” according to Associate Vice Chancellor Anna Wu during a Board of Trustees Meeting.

Architecturally, the tower should give UNC hospitals a more unified appearance. The building's height will be close to the height of the N.C. Memorial Hospital, which it sits directly in front of, and the exterior of the tower is intended to complement the NC Cancer Hospital.

According to Director of Communications at UNC Health Care Phil Bridges, the towers will expand surgical theaters from an average of 450 sq. ft. to 650 sq. ft., with some being as large as 1,000 sq. ft. Ceiling heights in the operating rooms will be raised from 11 ft. to 22 ft.

Construction of the surgical tower is scheduled to begin September 15th and end by February 2022. The budget is anticipated to be $290 million.