HYDE PARK — After nearly five years of preparation, the University of Chicago hospital’s big day arrives Saturday when nearly 500 employees will move about 200 patients and equipment into the new Center for Care and Discovery.
Before the sun rises on Saturday, dozens of clinicians and administrators will prepare to transfer intensive care unit and hematology and oncology patients across the pedestrian bridge and through underground passages into the virgin medical facility.
The university promised military efficiency as doctors and nurses will slowly wheel recovering surgery patients into the new facility in closely monitored three-minute increments. After nine hours, the university expects all patients will be moved out of Bernard Mitchell Hospital, which will shut down empty patient rooms and other areas for renovation.
“An undertaking of this scale obviously requires a great deal of planning, focus and unwavering commitment from all involved,” said Debra Albert, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services, in a prepared statement. “We’ve devoted thousands of hours to careful consideration for every detail in the safe transfer of our patients to their new home while offering peace of mind to their loved ones.”
The number of patients being moved won't be known until Saturday morning, said hospital spokeswoman Lorna Wong. The final count depends on how many patients are discharged and admitted Friday, she said.
Street closures are expected during the day. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, East 57th Street, from Cottage Grove Avenue to Drexel Boulevard, and South Maryland Avenue, between East 57th Street and East 58th Street, will be closed to car and pedestrian traffic.
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.
Patients are being advised to enter Comer Children’s Hospital from the South Drexel Avenue emergency room entrance, and patients are urged to enter the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine through the main entrance on East 58th Street.
Parking garages serving visitors and patients are expected to be operating as normal.
Planning and construction of the 1.2 million-square-foot hospital has been in the works for five years at a cost of $700 million. Saturday will mark the addition of 240 new single-patient hospital rooms on the South Side of Chicago.