Cook Children's Medical Center Opens Infectious Diseases Critical Care Unit

The expansion ensures children with highly infectious diseases will be treated in the safest environment possible.

By HFT Staff
October 20, 2022

Cook Children’s Medical Center in Chicago has completed its new infectious diseases critical care unit (CCU), meeting the need for a clinical facility dedicated to the treatment of patients with contagious illnesses. The expansion is designed to ensure children with highly infectious diseases receive treatment in the safest environment possible. The unit’s design and technology allow for the treatment of patients while also protecting Cook Children’s staff and the community from the spread of illness. 

While the need for the unit first appeared on Cook Children’s radar several years ago when Ebola made its way to the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic shined a light on its importance once again. 

The overall expansion for the preparedness of pandemics includes the new six-bed infectious diseases CCU and a 24-hour center with dedicated incident command space. A new 32-bed medical-surgical unit also was added to expand Cook Children’s ability to meet the hospitalization needs of the growing communities it serves. 

Since the start of the pandemic, much has been learned about ways to maintain safety for staff and guests and care for infectious disease patients. 

These best practices and protocols are standard design in the infectious diseases units, which feature specialized air ventilation systems, dedicated areas to put on and take off personal protective equipment, and technology that allows clinicians to closely monitor a patient without having to be directly at the bedside and other heightened protection measures to contain disease spread. 

Each of the new infectious diseases CCU rooms will have a private bathroom, an accommodation not available in the previous critical care space used for contagious patients. This feature allows parents to stay in the room with their child as long as they would like and reduces the in and out traffic of a parent who might have the same illness as the child due to exposure. Dedicated entrances and exits to these units for staff and visitors will help protect the general hospital environment. 

To open space for the infectious diseases CCU, the Cook Children’s simulation lab was relocated. The lab is an educational space where staff practice using new technologies, innovations and research. Last year, Cook Children’s was the first freestanding children’s hospital in the world to receive full accreditation through the Society for Simulation in Healthcare. The relocated lab allows for the future expansion and growth of this program. 

System-wide solutions 

The design of the new 24-hour center was inspired by lessons learned about system-wide coordination and cooperation throughout the pandemic. Members of all 14 of Cook Children’s Health Care System’s entities worked together in the medical center’s incident command center to coordinate a consistent response to COVID-19 across the organization. The new solutions center will operate year-round under the same premise of consolidation, coordination and consistency.  

Inside the solutions center is an incident command center equipped with meeting space that accommodates proper social distancing protocols and communication technology that supports real-time global health updates. This is a much-needed upgrade from the classroom that doubled as an incident command center during the height of the pandemic. 

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