After five years of preparation, the Center for Care and Discovery opened to about 150 hematology and oncology patients on a day that marked the hospital's biggest expansion yet.
The first patient was brought in about 7 a.m., and as of 9:30 a.m., the patient transfers were ahead of schedule and going "smoothly," said Corrin Steinhauer, director of Cancer Medicine Services.
"A lot of them are really excited, are awestruck" Steinhauer said of the patients.
Each transfer took about 10 to 12 minutes along the two indoor blocks from the Bernard Mitchell Hospital, said Tiffani Washington, a spokeswoman for University of Chicago Medicine.
The Bernard Mitchell Hospital is shutting down empty patient rooms and other areas for renovation.
Jerline Green, 83, was one of 39 patients to be moved into the oncology unit on the 10th floor of the Center for Care and Discovery Saturday morning.
"Isn't this something?" she said, gesturing to her impeccable view of the Chicago skyline North of Hyde Park. Her large corner room included an expanse of bookshelves and a TV that would connect her to the internet and educational patient "Get Well Network."
"This is big enough to party in," she said, laughing. Though she had been nervous about her move the night before, "it was great, didn't hurt a bit."
The 1.2-million-square-foot center has 240 single patient rooms, and the project cost $700 million. Planning and construction has been underway for five years.
The symbolic day when the university opens the single biggest expansion of its medical facilities in its history is also expected to attract protesters.
Activists pushing for a trauma center at the university for victims of gunshot wounds and other injuries are expected to stage a rally outside the hospital during the patient transfers. Other health advocacy groups have also organized events and meetings around the university and Hyde Park to coincide with the opening of the Center for Care and Discovery.