Inside the North Tower: One Year Later, Inova Loudoun Prepares ‘Opening Day’ Celebration

Now that it’s a year old, Inova Loudoun Hospital CEO Deborah Addo is finally getting to show off her new baby.

It’s a big one—382,000 square feet—that came out of 30-month-long project.

When construction of the Lansdowne campus’ North Tower finished last spring, the project did not get the huge public celebration that Addo and other hospital leaders had long envisioned. Instead, it quietly opened its doors on April 13, 2020, just a few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a widescale lockdown. 

But, a year later, the North Tower still has that “new car” look and feel. Finally, as coronavirus restrictions begin to loosen, Addo and her team envision a time not too far into the future where that long-awaited celebration can finally be held. In the meantime, though, she offered Loudoun Now a glimpse inside the project many have been watching take form since its Sept. 17, 2017, groundbreaking. 

From the start, those who worked within the hospital’s walls and the community it serves were a big part of the North Tower’s makeup. Both Addo and Special Projects Manager Kelly Stevenson pointed to the mock patient and clinical rooms set up in tents outside the hospital before construction began. Back in the days of public events, the tents became stopping points for hospital visitors and employees to give their input on room layouts, and features they desired. Stevenson was the point person for the hospital’s clinical team on project design. 

“We’re better, but not complete, in terms of being able to welcome so many in the community who have supported us, cheering and rooting for us. It’s always been about the community taking care of the community,” Addo said.

The expansive lobby of the North Tower is large and welcoming for a reason. Once larger gatherings resume, Addo and her staff envision it as a perfect location to host community events. The sunken lobby leads up the stairs to the former lobby area, and the building design creates a seamless transition not only from new to not as new, but between different departments and specialties. Patients and visitors are also able to access the North Tower directly from a pedestrian bridge connecting the building to a parking garage. 

Addo credits the Schaufeld family for their donations to the hospital, which made its new cardiac and pulmonary rehab space possible. That part of the North Tower opened for use Aug. 1. The inside of the space feels more like a community gym than a hospital, with patients taking turns on different exercise machines and walking the track, all while connected to a central cardiac monitor. A locker room, showers and community room complete the space. Cardiac rehab used to be in a separate building from the main hospital, Stevenson said, and the demand for the services had far exceeded the available space. 

Inova Loudoun Hospital CEO Deborah Addo talks with Anju Maheshwari in the new Cardiac rehab unit during a tour of the new North Tower. Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now

Addo said the cardiac rehab team was particularly on the forefront of increasing the hospital’s telemedicine initiative, a form of healthcare that in a year has gone from nice-to-have to a necessity. 

The North Tower also includes labor and delivery and postpartum rooms, which moved over from The Birthing Inn.

Both the labor and delivery, postpartum and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit rooms include some nice new touches, from sofas that double as a table and chair for parents to enjoy a meal together, and transforms into a bed for the mother’s support person, to a transition room in the NICU. The latter looks more like a hotel suite than a hospital room, and serves as a place for parents to stay with their NICU newborn for a night or two before heading home. It gives them a chance to familiarize themselves with whatever equipment the baby will be coming home with, and have nurses and medical staff just a few steps away. The NICU has larger rooms than its predecessor and includes 12 private rooms and two four-baby pods. It is the largest NICU in the county.

The waiting rooms for the labor and delivery units and NICU also are separate, to provide further protections for both parents and the baby. NICU parents also have a lounge area to eat their meals.

Inova Loudoun Hospital Special Project Manager Kelly Stevenson shows off the new Inova Loudoun Birthing Center in the North Tower. Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now

With the addition of the North Tower, the entire Lansdowne campus now features only private hospital rooms. Additionally, there are separate elevators for patients and staff and those coming to the hospital as visitors. 

“It’s like Disney,” Addo said, with hospital staff able to be under the radar and out of the public eye. 

Each floor also features a prayer and meditation room open to the public, in addition to the hospital’s main chapel. Addo and her husband were the donors for one of those spaces, which allows a private place to pray or reflect. 

“As we continue to think about wellness these kinds of additions serve us well,” Addo said. 

As part of its infection control measures, the hospital also eliminated curtains leading into or within its patient rooms. 

Addo stresses it is safe to visit the hospital, particularly if you need medical attention.

“We encourage people to seek emergency and routine medical care here at the hospital. There’s no reason to delay procedures—it’s safe to visit the hospital and medical practices,” she said.  

Several floors in the North Tower contain shell space, giving the hospital room to grow as demand picks up. Addo envisions the eventual relocation of medical/surgical and oncology rooms to one of those floors, as demand for postpartum services increases. 

Addo, Stevenson and other hospital leaders recognize that the community will at some point be faced with another pandemic or health crisis. In a nod to being forward-thinking, the hospital added an additional 15 negative-pressure rooms, and converted all of its critical care rooms to have negative pressure capabilities. Those rooms, in particular, became essential to fighting COVID-19. 

While the North Tower serves as a significant upgrade for the Lansdowne campus, Addo recognized that anything new takes some acclimation. 

“We were not going to build a new, old Inova Loudoun. This was designed to be new and different,” she said.

When health care workers moved into the new building last spring, she placed a 90-day moratorium on any changes unless they presented a safety or quality concern. Stevenson had a list ready for day 91, but said the desired changes from staff were minor. 

Addo and her staff did not rest on their laurels long, and are already planning for future changes and additions to both the Lansdowne and Cornwall campuses. Plans are underway to add more operatories to the Lansdowne campus, and hyperbaric oxygen chambers are planned at the lower level of the hospital. The 18,500-square-foot Inova Schar Cancer Center is also set to debut this year. Addo has set the aggressive timeline of providing the first patient infusion in the cancer center before the end of the year. 

“That is going to be a major gain,” for both the hospital and Loudoun in general, she said.

On the Cornwall campus in downtown Leesburg, hospital leaders are looking to add to its imaging space, and work on the Inova Loudoun Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Next week, on April 13, Inova Loudoun’s Lansdowne staff will be treated to “Opening Day” festivities akin to a baseball game. It looks to again be a more subdued celebration than previously envisioned, but will likely feel much more like a real ce

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