New Irvine hospital makes adjustments for local cultures

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Susan Valot/KPCC

Administrators at the new Hoag Hospital Irvine opted to skip having a fourth floor because some cultures in the community believe the number four is associated with "death."

When the new Hoag Hospital Irvine opens this week, it’ll be filled with all sorts of high-tech medical equipment. But the building is missing something — on purpose.

In the new facility, everything looks normal, until you walk into the elevator. Look at the buttons: There’s no fourth floor.

It didn’t vanish into the Twilight Zone. It’s not there.

Hospital Chief Administrative Officer Robert Braithwaite says the area has a large Asian population and in some of those cultures, four sounds like the Chinese word for “death.”

"We took that seriously," he says. "We counseled with the fire department. We counseled with the city leaders. We counseled with a lot of individuals, but ultimately made the decision that it was, quite frankly, not a big deal to just re-number the floors, one, two, three, five and six and just eliminate that [the number four] altogether, much like here in the United States where we eliminate the 13th floor from hotel and office towers. And so we did."

Braithwaite says the hospital staff is used to dealing with cultural differences. He says the lack of a fourth floor is an extension of that.

He points out, though, that Hoag’s Newport Beach facility has a fourth floor because the cultural makeup of that coastal Orange County community is different than in Irvine.

Hoag Hospital Irvine is scheduled to open Wednesday.

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