New Merced hospital to open soon

MERCED -- In a little more than a month, Merced's new hospital will be open to patients. That hospital passed another hurdle recently when the state Department of Health Services gave the north Merced facility a license to operate.

"The state has given us permission to move into our new facility," said Ann Ahmadi, director of transition planning for Mercy Medical Center.

The hospital is scheduled to open for service May 2 at 6 a.m.

Five inspectors gave the $260 million hospital a thorough going-over, and Ahmadi said that with the approval of the license, the move from the 13th Street hospital can be stepped up.

About 90 percent of Mercy's 1,100 employees have gone through on-site training, Ahmadi said. Hospital volunteers, clergy in the area, police, fire and other organizations also have undergone training, more than 2,000 people in all.

"The state told us they were impressed with the preparedness of the employees," Ahmadi said.

The 13th Street hospital is scheduled to close the same day the new one opens. Patients in the hospital that day will be carried by ambulance to the new facility.

Plan formed for ER patients

If there are patients in the old emergency room who haven't been seen by 6 a.m. that day, Ahmadi said they'll be assessed, and if a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital, that patient will be taken to the new hospital.

There will be emergency room staff to treat patients who are in the waiting room when the move begins. Staff will stay at the 13th Street facility until everyone in the emergency department has been treated, Ahmadi said.

Hospital administrators are planning to move about 100 patients to the new hospital. Elective surgeries will be postponed the week before the move, so the hospital census, which averages about 120, will be lower than normal.

Ahmadi said 23 ambulances will be used to move patients, with the goal being moving a patient every three minutes. The move is being done on a Sunday because traffic in Merced is usually light at that time.

"We will have police stationed at intersections with stoplights," Ahmadi said. The hospital is being helped by a company from Canada that assists hospitals with facility transitions.

Ahmadi said staffing will be ramped up that Sunday so patients at both campuses can be treated. The move is expected to be finished by noon.

Residents who are curious about the new hospital will have a chance to tour it April 24. Robert McLaughlin, spokesman for Mercy, said the hospital will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for tours. The free tours will include the emergency room, the intensive care unit, operating rooms, the family birthing center, the imaging center and the sixth and seventh floors.