Everyone hopes for a problem-free moving day. But when your move involves 11 ambulances and approximately 60 sick and injured children, you really need it to go smoothly.
Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, the University of Minnesota's Amplatz Children's Hospital will begin clearing out of its cramped, 1980s-era building on the East Bank campus, where it shares space with the University's adult patients.
If all goes smoothly, by the end of the day Amplatz doctors and nurses will be caring for all of their young patients in a gleaming, new hospital across the river on the university's West Bank campus. The facility will also be open to admit new patients.
Moving a hospital is a monumental task -- on the scale of relocating dozens of businesses at once.
Some hospitals stagger their move over several days. But Amplatz officials intend to get their entire move done in six to eight hours. The advantage to that approach is that it will shorten the amount of time that staff members will spend running two hospitals.
The obvious challenge is that they will have to be incredibly efficient movers.
Cari Worner, vice president for professional services at Amplatz, has been planning this move for the past two years. In order to pull it off in a day, Worner says a patient will be sent to the new hospital every five minutes. That means everyone from nurses to parents to patients must be on the same page.
"If you want an ambulance to depart our campus every five minutes, then packing up that patient, getting them ready, having parents understand and patients understand this is what's happening -- it allows us to have a smooth flow," said Worner.
Children who are not as sick will be the easiest to move because they won't be tethered to lots of medical equipment. But patients recovering from cancer treatments, brain surgery or bone marrow and organ transplants could be quite ill during the move.
Anyone who is not medically stable will stay in the old hospital until they are well enough to be transferred. But Amplatz officials say they aren't anticipating that scenario would apply to very many children.
To transfer patients' essential medical equipment to the new hospital, Amplatz has rented four moving trucks, in addition to its 11 ambulances.
Worner calls the vehicles "hot trucks" because they will be in near constant motion.
"Unlike a regular moving truck that you fill up and then you drive, this -- as soon as one item gets on it, that is moved," said Worner. "So it's hot because it should never be standing still long enough to get cool."
During the past few weeks, hospital staff members have been doing simulation exercises to help them speed up the time it will take to move each patient and pack their medical equipment. For some of their most complex cases, they've reduced their average time from 45 minutes to less than 20 minutes.
Friday evening, nurses will walk around their unit and make sure that every piece of portable equipment is plugged in and fully charged by morning. Little details like that could make a big difference on moving day.
Amplatz has had help with its planning from Jim Verhey, president of Normandale Associates located near Reno, Nevada. Over the past 30 years Verhey has consulted on about 50 hospital moves. He says he's never had a bad move, but he has narrowly averted some major hiccups.
When Verhey helped move the Dell Children's Hospital in Austin, Texas in 2007, he says it didn't occur to him to check with the nearby convention center to see if a big event was scheduled that same day.
Then, just three days before the hospital move, he learned that his ambulances were going to have to share the road with a parade -- a circus parade, to be precise.
Verhey pleaded his case with the convention center and they took pity on him.
"It's basically going over and talking to the director and saying, 'We've got a patient move happening, and you have elephants coming down the road there, and I'm wondering if we could time it differently?' So it was a little bit of a negotiation process. It was an embarrassment on my part," said Verhey.
For the Amplatz move, Verhey dug up April weather statistics covering the last 10 years. He says the data suggested that it probably wouldn't rain Saturday. But he ordered large tents anyway to cover the open ambulance bays.
That was probably a smart decision, because the forecast now predicts a good chance of rain during the move.