Businesses Muscle Metro Health From GR To Wyoming

October 1, 2007
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WYOMING — How many companies does it take to move a hospital?

It's no joke: National consultants and local firms were tapped to move furniture, computers and people from Metro Health Hospital's long-time home in Grand Rapids to the new $150 million facility in Wyoming, which opened yesterday.

Grand Rapids' three major ambulance companies — American Medical Response, Life EMS and Rockford Ambulance — each played a role in shifting about 100 patients, starting early Sunday morning.

Dale Feldhauser, general manager at AMR in Grand Rapids, said meetings to coordinate the move began about a year ago. A dozen of its 25-vehicle fleet and 18 staff members were to be devoted to the move, estimated to begin at 7 a.m. and last for eight hours. AMR staff, lured by overtime pay and the chance to be involved in West Michigan's biggest hospital move, signed up voluntarily, he said.

"We did a simulated move already a couple weeks ago and found a few things we needed to fine tune," said Feldhauser. The biggest challenge? Communications. "They wanted everybody to talk to everybody.

"The key element from our standpoint is all three (ambulance) companies working together. There will be radio communication, but communications will be very minimal." Life EMS coordinated communications, Feldhauser added.

"We're going to manage this very much like we would a disaster scenario. It's good practice for us from that standpoint, in that type of scenario, of moving a large number of patients," he said.

Corrigan Moving Systems, a United agent in Grand Rapids, moved a mainframe computer system in the spring from Metro Health's home for 50 years at 1919 Boston St. SE to the new hospital, said Cheryl Buckley, vice president of marketing.

"We got the most delicate part of the move," Buckley said. "In that case, they were really concerned about when they took it down (and) that it would be operational when they booted it back up. We had our movers load the equipment, take it to the new facility, unload, and wait till it booted to make sure they didn't have to take it back to the old building.

"You don't crate it; you don't package it. It's rolled on to the truck using special dollies. The metal will bend very easily if you use standard moving equipment. Everything went flawlessly."

Tom Senecal, president of Laser's Resource of Kentwood, said he's had one to two employees plus a summer intern setting up Hewlett-Packard printers at the new Metro Health Hospital for 45 days.

"Because of the need to keep the current hospital in operation, they're basically putting in all new (printer) technology in the new hospital," said Senecal, who has 16 employees. That includes 120 multifunction printers and 100 stand-alone laser printers, he said.

Laser's Resource has a managed print service contract with the hospital, in which the company provides "devices that put images on paper" and charges the hospital per page. Laser's Resource also services the printers, Senecal said.

"Even though they are working very hard on a lot of business software, they still print about 1.2 million pages per month," he added.

Senecal said his company will re-market printers left behind at the old hospital.

Craig Blassingame, Metro Health's director of transition planning, said the hospital hired two national companies: Allied Hospital Services, with locations in Colorado, California and Virginia, which handled the bulk of the moving duties; and Facilities Development Inc., of Phoenix, Ariz., which provided planning expertise.

Metro Health started working with FDI nearly four years ago, Blassingame said. A group of 75 employees was called together to create six subcommittees and a steering committee, which had a set of 312 "milestones" to accomplish the move.

"Essentially, it was like 'How do you eat an elephant?'" Blassingame said. "When you start a project like this, it is extremely overwhelming. The milestones help guide us through that process. Decisions are made one milestone at a time."

They gave the process a theme: "Transplanting the Passion."

"About eight months ago is when I saw 70 individual light bulbs going on, when everyone finally really understood their goals and objectives and their roles and responsibilities as to how it works within the project," Blassingame said. "That's when collectively it all sort of came together, and we've been pretty much in full steam since."

He said the hospital put a moratorium on new hires. "We're trying to orientate 2,000-plus employees, which means that every employee will be brand new whether they started 40 years ago or started one year ago. We thought it was best that we sort of hold off on hiring new."

Another moratorium was placed on vacations:  "This project requires all hands on deck," Blassingame said.

New medical equipment installation started in June, he said.

"There's three kinds of equipment," Blassingame said. "New equipment, which has been delivered and installed. There's certain existing equipment that we will take. Then you have the surplus equipment. So we will then work with a third party to either auction off or to donate that to perhaps local charities or nonprofits or perhaps International Aid," a Spring Lake charity that refurbishes used medical equipment for use in Third World countries.

Blassingame said the move actually began on Sept. 14, starting with departments that have little direct patient contact, such as administration. Two Metro Health nurse managers met Saturday evening to assess hospital patients and decide the order in which they were moved, based on the severity of their conditions, said Blassingame. Some of the 30 ventilator-dependent patients, who actually live at Metro Health, were moved first, he said. A nurse traveled in the ambulance with each patient. Blassingame said the goal was bed-to-bed in 30 minutes. Some 375 doctors, nurses and other staff members participated in the move.

The Grand Rapids location had 238 beds, while the Wyoming hospital has 208 beds.

"When the last patient is cared for at 1919 Boston, then that building literally ceases to exist, and then those remaining departments, such as the lab, registration, radiology and other support services, can then completely close," he said. Metro Health has 30 days to vacate the Boston address before new owners take possession.

"Really, essentially, you're moving a culture, too, that has existed since 1942, and in its current location for about 50 years," Blassingame said. "So you're moving more than just machines, furniture and patients. You're moving something that's been stable for most of us for our entire careers, and also within the community."

Senecal said the excitement has been palpable for his staff working at the new hospital.

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