Hospital staff blushes over patio mishap

Published on: 6/17/2011

It was innocent enough, an effort to give employees at the Aurora Medical Center in Summit a patio for their break times.

Instead, it ballooned into an unintended Weiner-esque-capade that, for a few weeks anyway, had heads turning, tongues wagging and an anonymous tipster emailing this newspaper.

What can go wrong with a patio plan, right?

(OK. I admit it. I've never tried to build a patio.)

The poured concrete form of the project produced a long, slightly curved walkway connected to the center of what Aurora spokesman Adam Beeson said was intended to be the infinity sign.

For you non-mathematicians, infinity is symbolized by something akin to the number eight on its side. A stylized version of it is used as the logo of the Aurora Health Care conglomeration.

In the backyard of the Summit hospital near the employee entrance, it looked like something entirely different.

Let's just say this: Embattled ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner had his "package" on view in Twitter-world; Aurora had its patio, and observers on the upper hospital floors got the full monty.

Past tense is appropriate here. This week, after several weeks of gawking and rolled eyes and good griefs, adjustments were made to the patio design.

Changes were always intended, according to Beeson. The project got started a few weeks ago as a final task of the hospital's plant operations chief, who left amicably for another job last week, he said.

"It was a work in progress," Beeson said.

Then rain interrupted the concrete work at, apparently, an inopportune time.

"Unfortunately, what it looked like was a big phallic," Beeson acknowledged. "Everybody who sees it just groans."

I wondered: Was it the urologists who first took notice and said you've got to be kidding? My guess is no, they've been overexposed and wouldn't be fazed in the least.

Upper hospital management, on the other hand, was not amused and even a little annoyed with the development, according to Beeson.

The view was clear from some patient rooms, though he said he hadn't heard of patient complaints.

An employee from food service whom I caught up with as she left her shift told me nurses were mostly the ones buzzing about it.

"It's just funny," said another employee as he headed for the parking lot adjoining the employee break patio behind the hospital.

A tipster last Friday shipped a photo of the offending design taken from a window view on an upper floor to this newspaper.

Early Monday, newly poured and still-wet concrete had turned the central "infinity" section into a rectangle. A sidewalk extension had been poured, extending the walkway to another sidewalk to create a loop.

Beeson said early plans had included the use of contrasting colors that would highlight certain sections of the design, but he wasn't exactly sure of the details or whether, after all the fuss, plans had been altered.

The hospital, which opened at I-94 and Highway 67 last year, is adding the patio area so caregivers have a space to walk, talk about their personal lives or just get some fresh air away from patients. It is not, however, a place for cigarette breaks. Smoking isn't allowed on the Aurora property.

The only thing smokin' is the short-lived patio design.

Call Laurel Walker at (262) 650-3183 or email