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Meritus Medical Center opens, replacing Washington County Hospital

December 11, 2010|By MARIE GILBERT | marieg@herald-mail.com
  • Alyssa Catherine Dorsey, the first baby born at Meritus Medical Center, rests comfortably Saturday in the arms of her mother, Jessica Dorsey of Hagerstown.
Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — At 6:04 a.m. Saturday, the doors of the emergency room opened with a whisper, and a woman in labor made it official. Meritus Medical Center was now accepting patients. Across town, another story was unfolding. After more than 100 years, Washington County Hospital was closing its doors. Saturday was moving day. The sky was dark and most of Hagerstown was still asleep when fleets of trucks and ambulances began lining up around the hospital. While the loading docks were busy packing up equipment and supplies, the lobby was filled with medical personnel ready to move more than 160 patients to the new medical center. Shortly before 6:30 a.m., Trudy Sasscer left the progressive care unit on the third floor and was wheeled on a gurney to the hospital’s lobby, where a team of emergency medical technicians and nurses double-checked information and covered her in a warm blanket. The 63-year-old Hagerstown woman — the first patient to be transferred from Washington County Hospital to Meritus Medical Center — smiled at all of the attention. “I feel very honored and excited,” she said. “I was originally against the new hospital, but now I’ve changed my mind.” The new medical facility held a ribbon-cutting ceremony recently and had made preparations for treating emergency patients Saturday. But one hurdle remained: transporting services and patients from one hospital to the other without sacrificing quality care. Although the distance between hospitals is only a few miles, the details were daunting and the shift to the new location required military-style precision. Using 30 ambulances from Butler Ambulance Service and LifeStar, patients were transferred in a sequence that went floor by floor. Patients with more-serious health issues headed the list. Each ambulance was equipped with Advanced Life Support equipment, as well as personnel with experience in caring for critically ill patients, said Nicole Jovel, public relations coordinator for Washington County Hospital. “We often prepare patients to be transferred by ambulance or helicopter,” she said. “So this is not foreign to us. This is just a much larger scale.” Jovel said out-of-town ambulances were used so local ambulances would not be taken out of service. At the other end of the transport, a team of medical personnel at Meritus greeted the new arrivals, checked for any concerns and prepared them for their new rooms. While many rooms at Washington County Hospital were eerily empty, other parts seemed somewhat normal, even on the last day.  A few patients were still being treated in the emergency room and the last surgery was performed on a woman who had an emergency Caesarean.  The baby, Clara Leighann Kendle, was the third generation of her family born at Washington County Hospital. A helicopter landed for the final time on the roof to transport a patient to St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore.  James P. Hamill, president and CEO of Meritus Health, said staff had planned extensively for moving day. “So we’re expecting the transition to go seamlessly,” he said. Hamill said Washington County Hospital retired colors at 11 a.m. and raised the flag at noon at Meritus Medical Center. But, at the end of the day, no one officially turned off the lights and locked the doors.  Hamill said the moving of equipment and supplies will continue for several weeks and there will be 24-hour security. While the move has generated a lot of excitement among hospital staffers, Hamill said Saturday was bittersweet for many employees. “There are people who have worked here 30, 40, even 50 years,” he said. “It’s an emotional day.” Hamill said a series of closure ceremonies was held last week by the Pastoral Care Committee to honor years of service, as well as what the hospital has meant to the community. Joan Fortney, R.N. and co-chair of the patient move committee, said the transfer of patients was going according to plan with no major issues. “From one end to the other, things are moving smoothly,” she said. At 1:52 p.m., an announcement was made that all patients had arrived at Meritus Medical Center, three hours ahead of schedule. Fortney noted that Meritus Medical Center opened its doors Saturday morning to its first patient — a woman in labor who had been waiting in the parking lot. Shortly afterward, the first baby was born at Meritus. Alyssa Catherine Dorsey, daughter of Jessica and Larry Dorsey of Hagerstown, weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 1/2 ounces.   A final determination for the fate of Washington County Hospital has not been made, according to hospital officials. If an alternate use has not been found by Dec. 11, 2011, the hospital will be demolished, Hamill said.At 6:04 a.m. Saturday, the doors of the emergency room opened with a whisper, and a woman in labor made it official. Meritus Medical Center was now accepting patients. Across town, another story was unfolding. After more than 100 years, Washington County Hospital was closing its doors. Saturday was moving day. The sky was dark and most of Hagerstown was still asleep when fleets of trucks and ambulances began lining up around the hospital. While the loading docks were busy packing up equipment and supplies, the lobby was filled with medical personnel ready to move more than 160 patients to the new medical center. Shortly before 6:30 a.m., Trudy Sasscer left the progressive care unit on the third floor and was wheeled on a gurney to the hospital’s lobby, where a team of emergency medical technicians and nurses double-checked information and covered her in a warm blanket. The 63-year-old Hagerstown woman — the first patient to be transferred from Washington County Hospital to Meritus Medical Center — smiled at all of the attention. “I feel very honored and excited,” she said. “I was originally against the new hospital, but now I’ve changed my mind.” The new medical facility held a ribbon-cutting ceremony recently and had made preparations for treating emergency patients Saturday. But one hurdle remained: transporting services and patients from one hospital to the other without sacrificing quality care. Although the distance between hospitals is only a few miles, the details were daunting and the shift to the new location required military-style precision. Using 30 ambulances from Butler Ambulance Service and LifeStar, patients were transferred in a sequence that went floor by floor. Patients with more-serious health issues headed the list. Each ambulance was equipped with Advanced Life Support equipment, as well as personnel with experience in caring for critically ill patients, said Nicole Jovel, public relations coordinator for Washington County Hospital. “We often prepare patients to be transferred by ambulance or helicopter,” she said. “So this is not foreign to us. This is just a much larger scale.” Jovel said out-of-town ambulances were used so local ambulances would not be taken out of service. At the other end of the transport, a team of medical personnel at Meritus greeted the new arrivals, checked for any concerns and prepared them for their new rooms. While many rooms at Washington County Hospital were eerily empty, other parts seemed somewhat normal, even on the last day.  A few patients were still being treated in the emergency room and the last surgery was performed on a woman who had an emergency Caesarean.  The baby, Clara Leighann Kendle, was the third generation of her family born at Washington County Hospital. A helicopter landed for the final time on the roof to transport a patient to St. Joseph Medical Center in Baltimore.  James P. Hamill, president and CEO of Meritus Health, said staff had planned extensively for moving day. “So we’re expecting the transition to go seamlessly,” he said. Hamill said Washington County Hospital retired colors at 11 a.m. and raised the flag at noon at Meritus Medical Center. But, at the end of the day, no one officially turned off the lights and locked the doors.  Hamill said the moving of equipment and supplies will continue for several weeks and there will be 24-hour security. While the move has generated a lot of excitement among hospital staffers, Hamill said Saturday was bittersweet for many employees. “There are people who have worked here 30, 40, even 50 years,” he said. “It’s an emotional day.” Hamill said a series of closure ceremonies was held last week by the Pastoral Care Committee to honor years of service, as well as what the hospital has meant to the community. Joan Fortney, R.N. and co-chair of the patient move committee, said the transfer of patients was going according to plan with no major issues. “From one end to the other, things are moving smoothly,” she said. At 1:52 p.m., an announcement was made that all patients had arrived at Meritus Medical Center, three hours ahead of schedule. Fortney noted that Meritus Medical Center opened its doors Saturday morning to its first patient — a woman in labor who had been waiting in the parking lot. Shortly afterward, the first baby was born at Meritus. Alyssa Catherine Dorsey, daughter of Jessica and Larry Dorsey of Hagerstown, weighed in at 7 pounds, 11 1/2 ounces.   A final determination for the fate of Washington County Hospital has not been made, according to hospital officials. If an alternate use has not been found by Dec. 11, 2011, the hospital will be demolished, Hamill said.

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