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Volume 11, Number 17 April 30, 2004

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New building will integrate health sciences education

Planning aims for 2007 construction start on $120-million Academic Health Sciences Centre

By Colleen MacPherson

Illustration courtesy of FMD

Although not allocated a single cent in the March 31 provincial budget, the Academic Health Sciences building project is proceeding through a detailed planning process toward a construction date in 2007.

Charles Baker, Academic Program Co-ordinator on the project steering committee, said the group is “slowly chewing through” $1.3 million provided last year by the province to develop what will be a state-of-the-art integrated centre for teaching, research and patient-centred health sciences in Saskatchewan. That committee includes representatives of Saskatchewan Learning, Saskatchewan Health, the City of Saskatoon, Saskatoon District Health and the University.

Being as frugal as possible, the committee is “using our own talent like the designers at FMD (Facilities Management Division), allowing us to plan without getting involved with (the expense of) hiring an architect”. Baker said the group has looked at “all the parameters we could change, and the ones we couldn’t,” on the way to developing detailed plans for the $120-million project.

Dentistry Dean Charles Baker

Dentistry Dean Charles Baker is Academic Program Co-ordinator for the new building project.

Photo by Colleen MacPherson

The project has two main components – $93 million of new construction and $27 million to renovate existing facilities. The new construction will include a six-storey structure attached to the northwest side of the existing Health Sciences Building and extending in front of the Saskatoon Cancer Centre. With more space than A and B Wings of Health Sciences combined, the building will include links to Royal University Hospital and to the Arts Building via a walkway over Campus Drive.

The working drawings of the building, which FMD’s Ron Niekamp cautions change weekly, show much attention paid to four main objectives – integrated teaching facilities; an Instructional Resource Centre (Health Sciences Library); wet research labs; and animal housing. “What we’re trying to do now”, said Baker, “is focus on what we really need to take an integrated approach to providing health care to a dispersed population”.

Key to this integrated approach is physically bringing together the colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Pharmacy and Nutrition and the School of Physical Therapy while also making connections with related disciplines like clinical psychology, toxicology and veterinary medicine, said Baker, who is also Dean of Dentistry. This consolidation will allow students to learn together and researchers to work together. Baker explained that if, for example, physicians, nurses and pharmacists are expected to co-operate in providing patient services within the health care system, it makes sense to introduce them to this co-operative approach in the course of their education.

“The idea is to try to set up a system that will be training practitioners in an integrated manner,” said Baker. “It’s quite a different environment but this idea of the sole practitioner is gone. This is the wave of the future and once you go down the avenue of integrated health care planning, you don’t come back”. Baker added he is confident integrating health sciences at the U of S will create “a critical mass that almost guarantees success”.

Niekamp, manager of space and development, said academic programming and research dictate how space is allocated in the Academic Health Sciences project, and as those programs are firmed up, corresponding changes are made to the plans. The objective is shared facilities and space efficiencies, he said, and “our job is to interpret those (program) requirements to ensure they fit within the project, and within the budget.”

One efficiency, for example, is stacking wet labs one above the other, limiting the need for special utility services to a particular section of the building. Others are the collaborative teaching areas and patient-based clinical research space which, according to Baker, could see health services like ambulatory care located within the building.

Plans for the new structure also include a 500-seat theatre and a significant Instructional Resource Centre (library) complete with computer workstations, training rooms and study space.

“It’s a very iterative process and there’s a whole lot more planning and analysis yet to be done,” said Niekamp. This includes a tricky plan for accommodating people and activities in new space while existing facilities are renovated. The aim, he said, is to have all conceptual designing and space allocation complete by April 2005, in time for the next provincial budget.

The new Academic Health Sciences Centre will span the space from the old Health Sciences Building to the Campus Drive side of the new Royal University Hospital.

Illustration courtesy of FMD

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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