November 8, 2013

Augusta’s Alfond Center for Health to open Saturday

The new, 192-bed hospital in Augusta starts up at 6 a.m.

By Betty Adams badams@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

AUGUSTA — Except for the occasional “facility closed” sign outside, the new Alfond Center for Health on Friday appeared to be open.

click image to enlarge

Zachary Curtis, bottom left, and James Ludlow put down boards over the tile in the front hallway on Friday to make it a smoother ride for stretchers that will be rolling through when patients are moved in at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Aaron O’Neil wipes off dust from drilling in screws on Friday as he installs a sharps container at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta. O’Neil and other H.P. Cummings employees were taking care of the last punch list items the day before the move.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Additional Photos Below

Two people walked through the main lobby wearing the green surgical scrubs and hairnets, signaling that they’re operating room personnel.

Others pushed carts loaded with supplies. Computer monitors were up and running, and people could be seen working at their desks on the second floor of the glass-walled education pavilion.

A number of vehicles filled slots in the main visitor/patient parking lot as well as the employee lot, and couriers hurried into the building with deliveries.

The atmosphere was full of expectation as MaineGeneral Medical Center prepared for today’s opening of its new 192-bed community hospital. The $312 million facility combines the inpatient beds of the Thayer Center for Health in Waterville with all the functions of the hospital on East Chestnut Street in Augusta.

“This is a very exciting time for us,” said Chuck Hays, chief executive officer of the hospital’s parent corporation, MaineGeneral Health, at a pre-move press conference Friday at the new hospital. He talked about the decade-long effort to reach this point. “The vision was to create the best community hospital in the state known for uncompromising excellence.”

Move preparations have been underway for about 20 months, assisted by Ann Ahmadi, project manager for HTS, Inc., of Emeryville, Calif., which specializes in hospital moves. Hays said Ahmadi reminded officials it was same length of time as the gestation period of an elephant.

In keeping with that analogy, Hays said, “We’re ready to give birth.”

The process was to start at 6 a.m. today with the closing of the emergency room on East Chestnut Street and the opening of the emergency room at 35 Medical Center Parkway on Old Belgrade Road near Interstate 95’s exit 113.

Some 16 ambulances were scheduled to move patients to the new facility beginning at 7 a.m., and plans called for each patient to be accompanied by a nurse, a paramedic/EMT, and some specialty technicians or physicians if necessary.

Two dozen nurses who work at the adjacent Alfond Center for Cancer Care — which is closed during the weekend — were recruited to do the ambulance runs with the medical/surgical patients. “The goal is to have all patients moved by 5:30 p.m.,” said Sherri Woodward, senior vice president for patient services and chief nursing executive.

Nurses from the critical care, labor and delivery, and pediatric units will be traveling with their respective patients.

While some of the estimated 150 patients might also be accompanied by a family member, the new hospital is not open for visitors until about 6 p.m. when the transport is expected to be complete.

Hospital officials asked that people stay away while the move takes place to ensure patient safety and privacy and to avoid delaying the process. Hays said the hospital had to double its number of stretchers to keep the process moving since each has to be thoroughly disinfected between runs.

The Thayer Center for Health will remain open as an outpatient facility with a 24-hour emergency department, and a $10-million improvement project there starts Monday.

But the East Chestnut Street hospital in Augusta will close Saturday. Hays said it will be emptied and cleaned before being turned over to its new owners in January, although the hospital will continue to lease a portion of it.

On Friday, MaineGeneral Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Paul Stein walked through the halls of the new hospital, explaining that the gowned, operating room personnel were checking to be sure the surgical supplies were fully stocked because operating rooms will be open at 6 a.m. for emergency surgery.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Nurse Jane Landry puts sheets on stretchers in the post anesthesia care unit on friday at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Sherri Woodward, chief nursing executive, talks about the planned move during a news conference on Friday at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

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Scott Gayne moves boxes in the food service storage area on Friday at the Alfond Center for Health in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan



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