Early Tuesday morning, the first ambulances will begin to arrive at the doors of the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital emergency room. Later that day, patients will walk through the sliding doors of the $48 million building, culminating years of planning, fund raising, and construction.
The new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital opens Tuesday. This week, hospital staff prepared to take the final steps to leave behind their leaky 1974 building to move to the state of the art facility, following approval by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH).
Last Friday, a team of DPH officials inspected the building and went through a meticulous checklist. DPH approval was the final hurdle before the hospital could accept patients.
In a telephone call Monday, Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer, described how the transition would take place. He said Island EMTs will assist, and the entire operation will resemble an evacuation drill, allowing emergency responders to gain experience should the hospital ever have to make such a move.
The emergency department will be the first to move.
“We are going to double up the staffing beginning at 3:45 am Tuesday morning,” Mr. Walsh said, noting that the planning process continued and the schedules he was describing could change. “And at 4:15 am all new ER admissions will go to the new building.”
Mr. Walsh said the staff in the old ER would continue to treat patients admitted up to the transition point, while the newly admitted patients would receive care in the new ER.
The staff has been preparing for the transition in meetings and drills, he said.
The next unit to move will be the in-patient department, between 6 and 7 am. The hospital will be double-staffed during the transition as patients are moved from one building to the next — from double-rooms with no view to private rooms with water views.
The laboratory will open in the new building and be ready at 7:30 am for routine patient blood tests. Also, radiology is all set up. “Those moves are kind of easy, because it is all new equipment,” Mr. Walsh said.
The pharmacy staff will arrive at 4 am to begin their duties in the new building.
On Tuesday, operating rooms in the old and new hospital will be available for use. The OR staff will also be doubled up for the transition period. Although no elective surgeries are scheduled, Mr. Walsh said the hospital must be prepared for any emergency.
By the end of the day Tuesday, the clinical transition should be completed, he said. “I think we’re in good shape,” Mr. Walsh said.
Another major move is planned for the weekend of June 25. A team of technicians will arrive to upgrade and integrate the old hospital’s phones, computers, and information systems with those in the new building, which is already connected to Mass General Hospital and the Partners Healthcare System.
Chief Nurse Carol Bardwell has been responsible for helping to coordinate the move. “My primary responsibility has been trying to make sure the nursing units are up and running,” Ms. Bardwell said.
Ms. Bardwell accompanied the DPH officials Friday. “They were very meticulous and thorough in their job. They literally turned on every oxygen meter, every suction attachment, they hit every singe nurse call bell by every single bed throughout this building, they turned on every faucet to make sure hot water came on, they flushed toilets and pulled call bells and asked many questions.”
By next week, Ms. Bardwell said all new and existing employees will have completed an extensive checklist so they are familiar with the new hospital and know what to do in routine situations and in an emergency.
Ms. Bardwell said everyone is beginning to get excited. “I don’t really anticipate any major problems,” Ms. Bardwell said. “One of the benefits of the opening happening a little bit later than we originally anticipated is that all of our summer staff is here, so many of them are used to coming into new buildings. It just gives us a lot more access to staff to double up.”
Ms. Bardwell said that although elective surgeries would be suspended for a 48-hour period, the hospital will maintain its ability to perform emergency surgery.
Ms. Bardwell said she has been part of the building project from the beginning. “I was here when the architects were just going through wish lists,” she said. “And for me the most exciting thing is to just walk through and see what I remembered us talking about years ago.”
Is the new hospital a nurse-friendly building? Ms. Bardwell said it is. “Yes, once you are in the areas that you will be working in, everything is fairly centrally located.”
Ms. Bardwell said everything radiates off a central corridor connected to a patient care elevator. “We had a lot of input into the design, and then the Department of Public Health made some changes after that,” she said
Pieter Pil is one of the hospital’s two staff surgeons and chief of the medical staff.
“Our role in helping out with the move has been to focus on patient safety,” Dr. Pil, said. “That is the one area where we do not want to compromise, and I think we have worked hard so that is not the case.”
Those preparations run the gamut from knowing where equipment is located to checking the obvious.
“Simple things, like the beds fit through the doors,” Dr. Pil said. “If you have to rush someone on a gurney you want to make sure that you can get the gurney from point A to point B and not be surprised.”
This week, on Tuesday afternoon, the emergency room department ran drills using dolls and volunteers. The obstetrical staff has also gone through the motions and procedures they will utilize in their new space, and that included a mock C-section.
“I think this is all going to go very smoothly, to be honest,” Dr. Pil said. “It is like moving into a new home, there are always going to be a few surprises that have to be dealt with, but I think those are going to be minor.”
He said the staff is ready to make the move and has been since the new building was unveiled in April.
“There is definitely a palpable sense of excitement,” he said. “We are finally going to see that blue tarp come off the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital sign, and people are going to walk through those sliding doors, and it is just a beautiful place.”
The old hospital will be renovated for use as administrative offices and expanded space for physical therapy.