A transportation event began early Sunday morning that had been more than a year in the making, involving complex logistics, critical timing, hundreds of participants and precious cargo.
It took place not on a Los Angeles freeway but in the corridors of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where nearly 200 patients, from tiny newborns swaddled in color-coded blankets to teenagers, were carefully moved to a new $636-million facility that will utilize the most advanced technologies.
More than 600 medical staff underwent months of intensive training and preparation, and the hospital set up a command center to monitor the progress of each patient being moved from the old hospital to the adjoining seven-story Marion & John E. Anderson Pavilion.
The new emergency department, which features 26 private exam rooms and a larger, better-equipped trauma unit, opened at 6 a.m.
But it was the transfer of patients, which began around 7 a.m., that provided drama, with each move along a 600-yard series of corridors a mini-production of meticulous precision. Many of the patients depend on ventilators and other life-saving equipment, and each piece as well as several monitors had to remain attached.
They were wheeled in their beds, attended by as many as seven caregivers; many of the older children waved and flashed wide smiles as staff snapped their pictures going by.
To add an element of surprise, the children were not told about their spacious, colorfully decorated new rooms ahead of time. Manny Hernandez, the first patient to transfer to the new building, raved about his room’s ceiling — a painted blue sky with butterflies — and the bathroom.
“Everything is my size,” said Manny, 10, who has a blood deficiency and has been in and out of the Los Angeles hospital for nearly half of his life. He wants to be a nurse when he grows up so that he can help other children like himself. “I was really excited when I first came into the building and amazed at how big it is. I love it. It’s so beautiful.”
Veronica Zarate said she was a bit nervous as she accompanied her newborn, Blake Constantine, to the new facility because he has a breathing tube. But baby and mother made it fine. Blake, less than a month old, had surgery recently for a heart defect. Zarate said she her husband travel from Santa Clarita each day to be with the baby as he recovers.
“I have a lot more privacy and I love that there is a bed in the room and a lot of places to rest,” Zarate said.
The nonprofit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles was founded in 1901 as the first pediatric hospital in Southern California. The previous building, about 40-years-old, had 286 beds, while the new facility has 317 beds, 85% of them private rooms.
“This is really going to enhance our ability to accept patients from a much wider region,” said Richard D. Cordova, the hospital’s president and chief executive.
The transfer of every patient was timed and coordinated, and staff and resuscitation units were stationed along the way. Even the rehearsals for the event were intense, said Philippe Friedlich, medical director of the Newborn & Infant Critical Care Unit.
“We put a bucket of water that was nearly full on a bed and the goal was to move slowly enough that not a drop of water spilled,” said Friedlich. Some of the babies in his unit were attached to as many as six intravenous lines, as well as tubes to keep airways open and cooling machines. “Just moving a baby can destabilize it and even a bump can make a difference,” he added.
The move was finished by 3:30 p.m. The old building will still house patients undergoing rehabilitation and will eventually house new programs and services.