Hospital Patients Move into New Tower

After three years of building involving more than 5,000 construction jobs, move-in day arrived at the new UConn John Dempsey Hospital tower Friday morning.

It started at 5:15 a.m. with the opening of the new Emergency Department, and an hour later the ED’s first patient arrived.

Meantime, a carefully orchestrated plan to safely move 70 inpatients from the existing hospital tower to the new tower was underway.

“If we continue at this pace, we’ll be done before 1 o’clock,” said hospital CEO Anne Diamond at about 7:45 a.m.

She was right. The last patient was in place shortly after 11:20 a.m.

“It was truly an amazing experience,” Diamond said. “We all had opportunities to talk to patients and see what their reaction was as they moved into the new space, and it has just been so rewarding.”

“This facility is beautiful,” said nurse Sarah Higley, who previously worked on Surgery 7 in the old tower, now works on the fifth floor in the new tower. “The floor is brand new, all the rooms are private, all of the equipment that we have is brand new. Things are going to work a lot better. I was on Surgery 7 for a long time – I worked there as a student, as an aide, and as a nurse – so I’m very familiar with that floor, that floor was my home. And I’m very excited to call this floor my new home.”

How could we not feel better in a place like this? — UConn John Dempsey Hospital patient

One of the first patients moved to Higley’s floor was Dr. Michael P. Kruger, a graduate of UConn’s orthopedic residency program in the mid-80s.

“At the time, the hospital was state-of-the-art, and I was well aware of the capabilities of it and the niceties of it,” Kruger said. “But now, moving into this facility, going from semi-private to private rooms, it’s a big change. Having a facility where you get the privacy – when doctors come in to talk to me, I don’t have to share the information with the guy next door – it makes a big difference, I think, on how you recover and what the outcome’s going to be.”

The 11-floor tower has 169 single-occupancy rooms for enhanced privacy and infection control, and features artwork and natural light.

“This building is a lot more conducive to healing,” said nurse Katelyn Putney, after checking on a patient who’d recently moved to the new sixth floor. “It’s brighter, with more open space, and the communications systems we have now are more advanced and better for patient care.”

Shortly after being relocated to her new room on the sixth floor, patient Jennifer Boutin commented that the new tower doesn’t look like a hospital. “It looks beautiful, it looks cheerier,” she said. “Everything looks so brand new.”

The last patient moved to the new tower, Albert Bolduc of Granby was all smiles in his new room. “The move was extremely well orchestrated, and it was a very exciting and happy day,” he said. “The new tower is marvelous, it’s roomy and modern, and the views are really therapeutic.”

About 90 minutes after the last patient was moved, Diamond was asked whether the hospital was ready for a full opening to the public. “100 percent,” she said. “We’re ready right now.”

As one new tower patient said, “How could we not feel better in a place like this?”