The dreary brown and white walls, bare floors and crowded corridors are giving way at Harbor Hospital Center to an environment administrators and patients believe is more conducive to healing.
The 24-bed renal-pulmonary unit is the first of six areas to be converted to this "patient-centered care" concept. On Wednesday, 13 patients moved to the north wing of the redesigned unit.
Patient focus groups and hospital staff helped determine the look of the unit, picking the color scheme and making other suggestions.
The unit is light and airy. The floors are carpeted. Sofas and chairs have a southwestern motif. A 200-gallon wall aquarium sits midway down the hall. Patients select the pictures they want to hang on their walls from an art cart.
The large nurses' station has been replaced by a work-team area. The staff has shifted to teams of cross-trained specialists who will run each unit. A staff member who once could only perform one function for a patient can now carry out several tasks such as drawing blood, doing electrocardiograms and inserting intravenous tubes.
The facility has a kitchen and a dining room, where families can bring food from home and prepare meals for loved ones. A library stocks a variety of material and has a computer, which offers services such as America Online and Prodigy, and is loaded with games.
Most of those surveyed told the hospital they wanted their own space, so 16 rooms are private. Four of the rooms are double occupancy, but the unit has a meditation room where patients or visitors can go for quiet time. Visiting hours are unlimited; the only restriction on children is that they be healthy. Most rooms have sleeping chairs and sofas so family members can stay overnight.
This concept is an adaptation of one initiated in 1978 by a patient at what was then known as Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center in San Francisco. It is now called California Pacific Medical Center.
The patient, Angelica R. Thieriot, found her hospital experiences isolating and intimidating and began lobbying for changes.
Doris Flavin, 60, of Lansdowne is one of the Harbor Hospital patients benefiting from the changes Mrs. Thieriot's efforts brought about.
Sitting in her room with a waterfront view, Mrs. Flavin said if the renal-pulmonary unit "was any nicer, we wouldn't want to leave."
Harbor Hospital is renovating the south wing of the third floor, where its cardiac unit will move by Aug. 1.
The $9 million in renovations are part of the master plan, said Chad Dillard, a hospital spokesman.
Renovations for each unit will cost about $1.5 million. They should be completed in about two years, Mr. Dillard said. About 200 hospitals nationwide use the San Francisco model, but Harbor Hospital is the first to do so on such a scale in Maryland, Mr. Dillard said.
Nancy Fiedler, Maryland Hospital Association spokeswoman, said she was not aware of another hospital in the state carrying out the idea as extensively as Harbor Hospital.
"It's very consistent with trying to provide care getting into what the patient really wants rather than making it something the patient has to accommodate to. It's very patient-directed. It's really trying to take it from another direction," she said.