Dawn of a new Martha’s Vineyard hospital was mostly smooth

The new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital opened for business Tuesday morning. And business was very good, much to the surprise of hospital staff members who had hoped for a little breathing room during the early morning transition.

A total of 64 patients moved through the emergency room Tuesday. All of the patient rooms were full by late morning. “It was the busiest it’s been in a long time,” Tim Walsh, hospital chief executive officer told The Times in a telephone update yesterday morning.

Yesterday began on a busy note too. All patient beds were full. “I guess we’re being tested under fire,” Mr. Walsh said. “But I’m very happy with how things are going. There have been some little bumps, mostly with the new telephone system, but we are working that out.”

Hospital staff began arriving in the predawn hours Tuesday.

Just after 4 am the old emergency room closed and the new emergency room opened. The first patient arrived about 5 am.

Later that morning, patients were brought from their double rooms in the 1972 building to new private rooms.

Chief Nurse Carol Bardwell, who arrived at 3:20 am, said she thought everything had gone quite smoothly. The Island’s EMS services helped out moving patients. “They were spectacular,” she said.

The hospital had double-staffed for the morning transition. The cafeteria provided a continental breakfast at 4 am.

What was not anticipated was an influx of six admissions Tuesday morning that pushed the daily census up to 24 patients and had hospital administrators making plans to move patients close to discharge to postoperative rooms in order to free up beds. The pressure eased later in the day when patient discharges opened up more rooms.

Sitting in the lobby of the new hospital Tuesday about 1 pm, Mr. Walsh, said the situation was a bit unusual. “We haven’t seen that kind of census in a long time,” he said. “What is good is that we have a lot of options in terms of staff and rooms.”

Mr. Walsh, dressed casually for the occasion, had arrived about 3 am. He said the hospital employees had risen to the occasion and EMTs had volunteered to help out. “The whole staff did a super job,” Mr. Walsh said.

Asked if he planned to go home soon, Mr. Walsh said there were still issues to get resolved.

There were interface issues with some of the new medical equipment in the laboratory. Technicians from Partners Healthcare System were working on the problem.

This weekend a team of technicians will arrive to upgrade and integrate all the phones, computers and information systems in the old building with the systems now operating in the new building and connected to the Mass General Hospital and Partners network.

Sitting in the first floor lobby with a view of Vineyard Haven Harbor in the building he shepherded to completion, Cornelius “Connie” Bulman, hospital project leader, said the hospital staff were doing very well in adapting to their new surroundings.

Mr. Bulman, a veteran project manager, had spent the night in the building. He said the staff had to make the transition to a new information technology system, sophisticated telephone system and a new building, all in one day. “Any one of those by themselves would be huge,” Mr. Bulman said.

The new hospital is clean and spacious. Maintaining it in that condition is the next challenge. After watching the building go up brick-by-brick, Mr. Bulman said he took the job of hiring a facilities manager very seriously.

“It begins with the facilities manager and we had to find the right person,” Mr. Bulman said.

On June 1, the hospital hired John Murray of Edgartown, former chief engineer for the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown. Mr. Bulman said Mr. Murray has the right combination of mechanical knowledge and people skills to do the job.

“This is the high point for me,” Mr. Bulman said. “Just knowing that there is somebody like this to take care of this place.”