Half a dozen Alta Bates Summit Medical Center administrators, physicians and nurses donned hard hats and gripped ceremonial gold-colored shovels Monday to launch what they hailed as the next step in the hospital's evolution: an 11-story patient facility.
Nearly a decade in the making, the new Patient Care Pavilion includes plans for 238 acute-care private patient rooms, a new emergency department and a new 1,000-space parking garage.
The first phase is the pavilion, which will stand at the crest of Hawthorne Avenue.
The facility will increase the number of beds that the medical center offers -- currently about 1,000 -- during a time when many hospitals are struggling to keep their doors open.
The pavilion is slated to open in 2014.
Kyle Hansen, an assistant administrator, called the groundbreaking a "milestone for the future of health care" and said the tower would create a "beautiful new healing environment."
He spoke in front of the ground floor of Bechtel Hall, all that is left of the original six-story Samuel Merritt University nursing school and dormitory, built in 1966, which the new pavilion will replace. The last students moved out before demolition began last year.
Much of the material from the old hall will be used in the construction.
A new 21,000-square-foot emergency department will go in where the current Merritt Pavilion main lobby now stands.
The new department will include 30 beds and will be located next to the new pavilion -- closer to critical care and surgery.
A 1994 state law that mandated California hospitals be earthquake-safe by 2030 prompted the overhaul.
Officials said the design of the pavilion and new emergency department also reflects modern medical technology and patient care that were nonexistent when Samuel Merritt Hospital first opened near the site in 1909. Construction costs on the 101-year-old hospital totaled $200,000.
Today, Summit is part of a three-campus medical center serving Berkeley, Oakland and the surrounding East Bay. It is part of the Sutter Health network.
The new, ecologically friendly pavilion is expected to cost $350 million, funded by Sutter Health and Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, as well as by private and foundation donations.
Councilwoman Nancy Nadel praised the project for adding 500 construction jobs with guarantees that hiring will be done locally.