How We Plan to Move a Hospital

The original patient tower, left, and the new tower that together make up UConn John Dempsey Hospital. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Photo)
The original patient tower, left, and the new tower that together make up UConn John Dempsey Hospital. (Janine Gelineau/UConn Health Photo)

Early in the morning on Friday, May 13, UConn John Dempsey Hospital will embark on a momentous event, as it begins moving into its brand new, state-of-the-art, 11 floor and 380,000+ square-foot new hospital home named University Tower. One-by-one, each of its approximately 80 to 100 inpatients will be carefully moved from their patient rooms in the existing Connecticut Tower into new rooms in University Tower. Collectively, these two towers will now make up UConn John Dempsey Hospital.

The new patient care tower at UConn Health in Farmington is the biggest project of Bioscience Connecticut, the major initiative launched by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy in 2011, investing millions of dollars across the state to increase residents’ access to world-class medicine and to catapult the state into a future leadership position in bioscience research and innovative health care, while bolstering the state’s economy and creating new jobs.

Every detail, no matter how small, has been planned for. — Anne Diamond, CEO, UConn John Dempsey Hospital

Moving Day will commence at 5 a.m. on Friday with the opening of the new five-zoned, more than 40-bed Emergency Department. Newly arriving ED patients and ambulances will be directed to the new ED by large wayfinding signage, UConn Health Police, and parking staff. At that time, any current patients in the existing ED will be either discharged home, transported to the new ED, or admitted to the hospital.

At 6 a.m., UConn John Dempsey Hospital leadership, doctors, nurses, staff, and volunteers will begin carefully moving each inpatient from their current shared hospital patient room to one of the 169 newly awaiting large, private patient rooms with a view in the new tower. A new internal sky bridge connecting the second floor of the existing tower and the second floor of the new tower will be used as the pathway for safely transporting all inpatients. No patients will have to go outside.

The patient move process will involve moving five inpatient floors, starting with the most critically ill patients in the Intensive Care Unit and continuing until all inpatients are successfully moved. The process is expected to last several hours and to be completed by early afternoon.

The sequence of the patient move on May 13 from the existing tower to the new tower includes:

  1. the Emergency Department will move to the new tower’s B Level (5 a.m.)
  2. the Intensive Care Unit will move to the new tower’s Level 1 (6 a.m.)
  3. the Oncology 6th floor will move to the new tower’s Level 6 for Medical/Surgical/Oncology (7:30 a.m.)
  4. the Surgical 7th floor will move to the new tower’s Level 5 for Surgical/Orthopaedics (to follow)
  5. the Medicine 4th floor will move to the new tower’s Level 3 for Medicine (to follow)
  6. the Medicine 4th Floor Step-Down Unit will move to the new tower’s Level 2 for Intermediate care (to follow)
  7. the Cardiac Step-Down Unit on the 2nd floor will move to the new tower’s Level 2 for Intermediate care (to follow)

For Moving Day and the opening of the new tower, an Incident Command structure was enacted to manage the patient move, to plan and support the opening of the new tower, and to be operational 24 hours per day a few days before and after the move.

“The goal of the move is to have zero serious safety events during and for 48 hours post-move,” says Anne Diamond, CEO of UConn John Dempsey Hospital. Staffing for inpatient units and the move has been increased to accommodate the transition to the new tower.

Anne Diamond, CEO of UConn John Dempsey Hospital, right, with Kevin Larsen, associate vice president for business and ancillary services for UConn John Dempsey Hospital, in the Incident Command Center on May 11.
Anne Diamond, CEO of UConn John Dempsey Hospital, right, with Kevin Larsen, associate vice president for business and ancillary services for the Hospital, in the Incident Command Center on May 11.

On May 11, Diamond activated the Incident Command Center located on the 4th floor of the new tower and addressed dozens of its key members: “It’s showtime,” she said.

Over the past few months, Diamond’s team led the development of a carefully crafted more than 80-page Patient Move Handbook, with in-depth details around the move; the management of clinical operations leading up to, during, and post-move; the roles of those involved; the management of inpatient families, including a dedicated Family & Visitor Lounge during the move; equipment management; and the decommissioning of vacant units in the existing Connecticut Tower.

“Every detail, no matter how small, has been planned for,” says Diamond. “We have considered every angle, and are planning for all of them. We have built the infrastructure so that anything we may not have thought of, we are really prepared to address quickly in real-time. We want to ensure that we have considered every issue to make a safe, efficient, and joyful move for both our staff and patients.

“We are embarking on a move that most health care professionals and communities most likely only get to participate in once in a lifetime,” she adds. “I hope this move creates wonderful and professionally rewarding memories for all.”

Diamond emphasizes that “Our patients are at the center of everything we do. While we have a wonderful design of our new hospital building, it is each of our doctors, nurses, and staff that are the most important part of our hospital. I thank our team in advance for their efforts. I am proud of each of you and know that we will have a very successful and safe move. Good luck.”

Some inpatient services will remain operational in the existing Connecticut Tower and are not relocating to the new University Tower. These services include OB/GYN (Newborn Nursery and Labor & Delivery areas), Connecticut Children’s Medical Center NICU at UConn Health, correctional care, and psychiatry care.

For more information on the new hospital tower, visit: http://health.uconn.edu/opening. An infographic is available here with quick facts about the new facility.