PAINESVILLE, Ohio, October 12, 2009 - When Lake Health’s $155 million TriPoint Medical Center opens on October 21, all patients at LakeEast Medical Center in Painesville will be transported via ambulance to the new hospital in Concord Township. Lake Health has spent more than a year diligently planning and collaborating with Lake County fire departments and emergency medical services to ensure that patients are moved safely and comfortably, while protecting their privacy.
"It's an extremely complex task to transfer an acute health facility to a new building while providing seamless and uninterrupted patient care," said Cynthia Moore-Hardy, FACHE, president and chief executive officer of Lake Health. "Our transition planning team has worked closely with Lake County fire departments and EMS so that our all of our patients will receive compassionate, high quality care throughout the process."
Lake Health expects that approximately 75 patients will make the 15-minute trip to TriPoint Medical Center on October 21. As many as 15 Lake County EMS squads will move patients with back-up support provided by Metro Life Flight, Rainbow Babies and Children’s Critical Care Transport and TriCounty Ambulance.
The move will involve the transportation of both acute- and critical-care patients by ambulance and mobile intensive-care unit, with appropriate medical staff support, including a Lake Health nurse who will accompany each patient during transport. Most patients will be stable, but some will need care for serious medical conditions.
According to Richard Harvey, chief of the Mentor Fire Department, the plan is to complete the patient move in five to seven hours.
"Our goal is to move 12-15 patients per hour. But the process won’t be rushed, even if that means moving patients all day," said Chief Harvey, who is directing EMS and fire department operations for the move. "As always, patient safety will be the number one priority."
Internal planning for the transition to TriPoint began in January 2008 with careful reviews of all departments moving to the new hospital. Lake Health also tapped the expertise of Colorado-based Healthcare Transitions Group, which has helped other health systems successfully transition to new facilities.
"Based on best practices from other health systems, we outlined the milestones we needed to accomplish — ranging from reducing the inpatient population in the days preceding the move to familiarizing our employees and volunteers with the layout and functionality of the new facility," explained Janie Racer, vice president of Clinical Services and co-director of the patient move initiative.
Racer said that in addition to working with nurses and physicians to determine staffing and procedures to properly assess and transport patients, transition planners also collaborated with pharmacy, dietary, and housekeeping departments.
"Everything from maintaining patient medication doses, dietary schedules, and even ensuring that all patients belongings are accounted for and properly transported has to be incorporated into the process," she explained.
Command centers will be staffed at both LakeEast and TriPoint to oversee every aspect of the move, from sequencing patients to ensuring seamless coordination between hospital staff and EMS personnel. Throughout the patient move both hospital sites will operate simultaneously; with TriPoint officially opening to patients at 7 a.m. LakeEast will officially close only once all patients have been moved to TriPoint. However, Lake Health is asking that people who need care on October 21 go to the emergency department at TriPoint Medical Center as of 7 a.m.
To prepare for the patient move, emergency medical technicians, fire department personnel, nurses, doctors and other Lake Health team members participated in a four-hour “mock” move on September 30 in which simulated patients were moved from LakeEast Medical Center to waiting ambulances and transported to TriPoint Medical Center.
To make the mock move more realistic, teams faced unexpected problems during transport, such as one pretend patient having breathing difficulty.
"To protect the health and safety of our patients, we need to be prepared to handle anything," explained Andrea Wasdovich, vice president of Perioperative, Critical Care and Emergency Services for Lake Health and co-director of the patient move. "Simulating various scenarios that might occur gave us the opportunity to further refine our planning and preparation and iron out any kinks in the process."
The drill also allowed Lake Health to test a specially designed electronic tracking system that will provide families real-time information regarding their loved ones transport to the new hospital. This information will be displayed on a large, flat panel television inside a designated family hospitality area at TriPoint. To protect patient privacy, patients will be assigned a number that family members can use for to actively "track" patients' whereabouts.
"We understand the importance of keeping families apprised of their loved ones’ status throughout the move. In addition to our tracking system, we will also have coordinators on hand to assist families and answer any questions they have about the process," explained Moore-Hardy.
As the first large scale patient move ever to be conducted in Lake County, Chief Harvey said that Lake County fire departments will be incorporating the October 21 patient move into a simulated bioterrorism drill that will occur at another location.
"This patient move provides a unique opportunity for us to put our mass evacuation procedures to the test," explained Chief Harvey. He emphasized that the drill will be transparent to patients and won’t impact their move in any way.
Wages and overtime for EMS and fire department staff that support the patient move will be covered by a $20,000 grant provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Chief Harvey explained that fire departments are required by the state and federal agencies to conduct drills to test and hone their emergency procedures.
In the weeks leading up to TriPoint’s much-anticipated grand opening, Lake Health will continue to finalize elements of the move to ensure the smoothest transition possible for both patients and staff.
"Successful planning for the transition TriPoint is a testament to the dedication of our team members and volunteers, and our strong partnership with Lake County fire departments and EMS," Moore-Hardy said. "We have always provided exceptional patient care, and now we will have an exceptional facility that supports our commitment to patient- and family-centered care in a healing environment."