Utah Department of Health and Human Services Health Facilities Committee

By Doug Banks

Healthcare architecture involves many parameters that shape and influence the ultimate design of any healthcare project. Some of the familiar ones are budget, schedule, intended use, and existing constraints of the site or building (if the project is a remodel). Less familiar, but no less important, are building codes, regulations, and guidelines that must be followed. Various jurisdictional authorities have a say in how a healthcare project is constructed. The local or state building official and a state’s health department are among these.

In Utah, the Department of Health and Human Services oversees compliance with various rules and regulations. The Department is assisted in its responsibilities by a citizen-based, governor-appointed committee called the Health Facilities Committee. This policy-making body consists of 12 volunteer members who represent all aspects of the healthcare community including design and construction, acute care, skilled nursing care, assisted living care and hospice care. Additionally, there are committee members that represent the consumer, the geriatric population, hospital trustees, ambulatory surgery centers and physicians. The committee is charged with establishing rules for licensing of healthcare facilities and the submission of architectural plans and specifications related to healthcare construction for department review.

The committee meets regularly four times a year, and at other times as needed in special sub-committees. A typical meeting consists of reviewing proposed rule changes that guide the construction or operations of healthcare facilities and receiving reports of facility surveys conducted on a regular basis by the department for compliance with state requirements.

An example of a recent new rule that was created is one for Pediatric Respite Care. This category of facility was not previously addressed in the state rules. An individual from the community brought to the committee for consideration the concept of a respite care facility where a child with severe care needs can receive nursing care for up to 14 days to allow family members respite from that daily care. Over the course of several meetings, the department, the Health Facilities Committee and the community member worked together to craft a new rule that addressed this particular facility type, ensuring proper nursing care and administrative oversight, as well as addressing design and construction aspects of this type of nursing facility.

As a member of the Health Facilities Committee, I see the effort the state invests in protecting the health of the public. My participation has been rewarding as I join with other professionals across the healthcare spectrum to maintain a high standard of healthcare in Utah. This committee responsibility also fits with my mandate as a licensed architect to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, a trust I take seriously in all my healthcare projects.