FLASHBACK: Sebastian River Medical Center’s ‘Automedic’ Was Way Ahead of Its Time

By  //  June 13, 2017

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high technology at the dawn of the Space Age

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SEBASTIAN RIVER MEDICAL CENTER’s original structure was a 28-bed ‘Automedic’ hospital that was a round, metal, one-story structure erected on a reinforced concrete slab built on grade. There were no external windows, framing was primarily lightweight steel to meet code requirements, and both exterior and interior walls were composed of aluminum and polystyrene-foam sandwich panels. (Ft. Lauderdale News image, October 9, 1967)

SEBASTIAN, FLORIDA – Sebastian River Medical Center’s original facilities were described as a “futuristic hospital for the atomic age,” by the Fort Lauderdale News in a story dated October 9, 1967.

Dubbed “Automedic” for its cutting edge high technology at the dawn of the Space Age in the early 1960s, the modular building, and associated equipment, was formerly set up and featured at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964.

It was purchased by Dr. Kip Kelso and then disassembled and transported to Sebastian for reassembly in the mid 1960s.

When it opened, the 28-bed ‘Automedic’ hospital in Sebasitian was a round, metal, one-story hospital erected on a reinforced concrete slab built on grade.

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There were no external windows, framing was primarily lightweight steel to meet code requirements, and both exterior and interior walls were composed of aluminum and polystyrene-foam sandwich panels.

The floor plan was a series of concentric rings, with the outer corridor for visitors. Patient rooms formed an inner circle, and the “central core” was where professional services such as surgeries were performed.

1960s HIGH TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Wallace Best checks out the Automedic hospital telephone and television system that connected all 28 patient rooms.

1960s HIGH TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Wallace Best checks out the Automedic hospital telephone and television system that connected all 28 patient rooms. (Ft. Lauderdale News image, October 9, 1967)

“Low Operating Costs”

An article from a 1966 edition of The Modern Hospital, entitled “Now You Can Buy A Packaged Hospital,” pointed out that the Atomedic idea represented relatively low construction cost – and offers hope of low operating costs.

Each patient room had doors at either end, one to the corridor for visitors, and two opening into the core. One of these was a half-door through which the patient, bed and all, could be brought into the core for intensive care.

The hospital was planned for “refrozen” food service. Carrying out the concept of maintaining the core as the “clean” area, the food system assumed that nothing leaving the core for the patient room will be returned. No dish washing was planned as disposable dishware will be used.

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Virtually eliminating conventional housekeeping and providing a hospital environment with exceptional aseptic conditions was a complex air handling system.

In addition to closely filtering incoming air, the system treated the filtered air to selected voltage and radio frequencies to neutralize higher magnitude static electrical charges in any particles remaining.

The Automedic company said that this prevents the build-up of dust on metal surfaces, claiming there have been no visible signs of accumulated dust in the Automedic concept.

Three separate air conditioning systems served the corridor, the patient rooms and the core.

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CONTROL CENTER: Original hospital owner Dr. Kip Kelso (left) gives Dr. Wallace Best a tour of the core area, which was the nerve center of the Atomedic hospital concept. (Ft. Lauderdale News image, October 9, 1967)

“Best Small Hospital in the World”

Commenting on the Sebastian Automedic hospital in the Fort Lauderdale News article in 1967, Dr. Wallace H. Best of Florida Atlantic University, who at the time was a consultant for the Palm Beach Health Department said:

“I am most impressed by the advanced forms of medical electronics and computerized information systems ready for definitive on-line testing.  It is incomparably the best planned, constructed and equipped small hospital which I have seen anywhere in the world.”

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THE CORE: Dr. Wallace Best (left) and Dr. Carl Brumback inspect the operating room area of the Automedic hospital in Sebastian. At this time in 1967, Dr. Brumback, was the Palm Beach County Heath and Welfare Director. (Ft. Lauderdale News image, October 9, 1967)


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