November 10, 2013

MaineGeneral moves 120 patients to new Augusta hospital

A fleet of 16 ambulances facilitates the transfer to the new Alfond Center for Health.

By Keith Edwards
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Little Mikayla Downs isn’t likely to remember it, but her mother, Heather Downs, surely will recall who the second patient ever at the Alfond Center for Health was – her 5-day-old daughter.

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Photo by Joe Phelan A paramedics and transport nurses roll empty stretchers into the former Augusta MaineGeneral hospital as they work to move patients from there to the new Alfond Center for Health early in the morning on Saturday in Augusta.

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Photo by Jeff Pouland Ambulance crews wait to receive patients outside the Thayer Center for Health in Waterville on Saturday before transporting them to the new Alfond Center for Health in Augusta. The Thayer Center for Health will remain open as an outpatient facility with a 24-hour emergency department.

Mikayla, who was born Tuesday at MaineGeneral Medical Center’s now former hospital on East Chestnut Street in Augusta, will have at least a teddy bear, from the Delta Ambulance crew who transferred her and her mother from the old hospital to the gleaming new state-of-the-art hospital in north Augusta, to remember the occasion.

“It was pretty cool, actually. It looked like a parade of ambulances,” Downs, of Gardiner, said of their 4-mile ambulance trip completed by 7 a.m. Saturday. “When they told us we were moving, I thought it would be more hectic; but they did a good job making everyone feel comfortable. When we walked in, they had like 70 people there. All the employees greeted us. It was really nice of them.”

MaineGeneral Medical Center’s move of 120 patients from its former hospitals in Augusta and Waterville to the new Alfond Center for Health wrapped up well ahead of schedule Saturday, officials said. They’d expected the move to last until around 5:30 p.m., but the last patient arrived at 1:53 p.m. Saturday. All 120 patients were moved safely.

“It went incredibly well,” said Chuck Hays, chief executive officer of the hospital’s parent corporation, MaineGeneral Health. “We’re so proud of the staff, and Delta Ambulance did a fantastic job. We moved 120 patients with no unexpected outcomes, about three and a half hours earlier than expected. It was a very safe, efficient, incredible day.”

The move had been planned for about 20 months. Some hospital workers came in at 4 a.m. Saturday to get started.

A fleet of 16 Delta Ambulance rigs moved patients Saturday from the old MaineGeneral Medical Center and Thayer Center for Health in Waterville, starting at 6 a.m.

All Augusta patients were moved by 10:17 a.m., according to Joy Leach, a MaineGeneral spokeswoman, although hospital officials had estimated they wouldn’t complete the move of all the Augusta patients until early afternoon.

Next up was completing the transfer of the remaining 46 patients from Waterville to the new facility, which was done before 2 p.m.

The early move allowed the new hospital to let families visit patients Saturday afternoon. Officials had asked them to wait until 6 p.m. for the move to be completed.

“It was incredibly smooth,” said Hays, who was among the hospital staff members who greeted each patient as he or she arrived.

The day started with ambulances transferring critical-care patients from both hospitals. Then all remaining Augusta patients were moved, starting from the top floor and working down; and finally, all Waterville patients were moved.

About 30 nurses from MaineGeneral’s Alfond Center for Cancer Care, which is closed Saturdays, served as transport nurses, greeting patients at the old hospitals and riding along in the ambulances with them to the new facility.

Leach said patient liaisons provided families with updates on patients during the move.

Ten Delta Ambulance ambulances lined up at the main entrance to the old Augusta hospital early Saturday morning, with an ambulance departing every few minutes with a patient for the ride to the Alfond Center for Health, which opened at 6 a.m.

While Delta provided all the ambulances for the move, other ambulance services covered the 911 calls for Delta in its regular service areas, Hays said.

Workers removed, or in some cases covered, signs Saturday at the old Augusta hospital, including the emergency room sign, so passers-by would not think it is still a hospital, should they need treatment.

John Begin, a MaineGeneral spokesman, said the signs were taken down Saturday morning, and new signs were uncovered at the new hospital.

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

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