Handled with Care 2017-01-28T09:39:14+00:00

Handles with Care

Mary Ann Coleman takes a rest in an eco-friendly E-crate.
Mary Ann Coleman takes a rest in an eco-
friendly E-crate

Ten months before UAMS’ sparkling new hospital opened its doors, planning was under way for the daunting climax: the move.

Relocating a family or business may seem like the quintessential hassle; it disrupts lives and things tend to get damaged and misplaced. But consider moving a major hospital like the one at UAMS. With 300 patients, including fragile newborns attached to sensitive life-support equipment, there was no margin for error.

The weekend move was demanding, but the most tedious, time-consuming part by far was the planning, said Dick Pierson, vice chancellor for clinical programs and executive director of the UAMS Medical Center.

Divide and Conquer The planning involved a steering committee that oversaw the work of six task forces and national consultants with expertise in making large, safety-focused patient moves. The groups took over an empty room on the first floor of Ward Tower and made it their planning headquarters. Collectively the groups had to ensure that the new facility was properly furnished, that all equipment was hooked up and ready, that nurses and other caregivers were thoroughly familiar with their new work areas, that communications with employees were effective and that everyone knew the drill on moving day.

Plans were so precise they would have made a military commander proud. Fortunately the entire move was made indoors, which allowed patients to be moved in their hospital beds. To maximize speed, efficiency and safety, the intense preparation included contingency plans and several rehearsals.

Details Details “We calculated each patient move to within minutes,” said Bob Goza, director of clinical facilities planning for the hospital. “Teams of movers followed certain routes — even which elevators to use — depending on whether they were coming or going and whether they were moving patients or equipment.”

Throughout both moving days, patients were wheeled steadily from their double-occupancy rooms down long stretches of hallway — and in some cases an elevator ride — to their new, private rooms. Decisions about how to use the empty rooms they vacated have been left to the old hospital’s Space Committee.

On the Move The first and most difficult patients to move were the newborns. Three moving teams, which included a doctor, a nurse and other health professionals such as respiratory care therapists, were responsible for making the weekend move as seamless as possible.

A Greener Way

Mary Ann Coleman, who chaired the departmental moving team, was tasked with moving 18 hospital departments into the new hospital. As construction wound down, the departments moved what they could early, but much of their work coincided with the patient move.

“It was a really big, very complicated and a much more complex process than I would have ever guessed,” Coleman said.

Although there were rehearsals and timing estimates for every part of the weekend move, Coleman said there were still some wildcards, like how fast the new hospital elevators would be. “We assumed they would be faster, but we couldn’t know for sure,” she said. Outside movers were hired, but UAMS employees had to be trained in the packaging and labeling of boxes. To deal with unexpected problems, a hotline was created to address them on the spot.

“We wanted our moving teams to have immediate access to people who could respond to their needs, whether it was, ‘There are no linens on the new bed,’ or ‘I ran into a wall and there’s a hole in it,’” Coleman said.

The Payoff Rick Hood, president and owner of The Pioneer Group in Atlanta, the consultant hired to help lead planning for the move, predicted it would go well. “UAMS was one of the best and easiest clients to work with,” Hood said. “Everyone came to meetings prepared and they made us appreciate what a good project looks like. The hospital is a large addition to the campus, and there’s a lot of excitement about it.”