Children's Hospital holds dry run for big move

Patients will replace mannequins May 2

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His name was Joe.

He was a 7-year-old cancer patient on oxygen and intravenous fluids. He wore a mask to ward off infections.

And he was plastic.

Joe was one of about 35 mannequins strapped into car seats or gurneys, then ferried across town yesterday as Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh simulated its coming move from Oakland to its new Lawrenceville campus.

Joe's move from an oncology ward got off to a late start because of a glitch in the communications system connecting ambulance workers and hospital workers.

Jennifer Iagnemma, patient move coordinator and a registered nurse, was on the lookout for such things.

"I want a problem of some kind so I can make sure I have all my bases covered," Ms. Iagnemma said after briefing about 75 nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and other personnel on their roles.

More than 200 people are expected to take part in the real move May 2, when 150 to 200 patients are transported about 3 miles to the $625 million Lawrenceville campus.

Yesterday's drill gave a core group of hospital and ambulance personnel a chance to familiarize themselves with communications equipment and the plans Ms. Iagnemma has spent two years perfecting.

"Does everybody know the route that we're taking?" Rick Lippert, emergency medical services specialist and a move liaison, asked ambulance crews.

Briefings began at 10 a.m, and by 2 p.m. the exercise was over.

"Everything went fine," hospital spokesman Marc Lukasiak said.

The transport teams were briefed on their patients' conditions, then waited for clearance to take them from their wards to waiting ambulances.

Amid the hubbub, doctors and nurses continued working on real patients. One woman, a frail infant in her arms, came to the door of the child's room to watch Joe's departure.

In an especially important part of the simulation, two teams received surprises en route to Lawrenceville. Their patients had complications requiring fast thinking and extra care.

"They handled those fine," Mr. Lukasiak said.

In Lawrenceville, hospital workers asked for the arrivals' identification numbers, then directed the transport teams to appropriate rooms. Hospital police officers worked the elevators and escorted the teams to the rooms.

For some ambulance and hospital workers, the exercise took them inside the gleaming new building on Penn Avenue for the first time.

"It's absolutely beautiful," said Julie Paul, a registered nurse who took part in the drill and had been to the site before.

A second simulation -- following yesterday's exercise and an earlier table-top drill -- will be held April 19.

Seventeen ambulance companies -- some bringing more than one vehicle -- will be involved in the May 2 move. It will last several hours.

After completing a run to Lawrenceville, ambulances will return to Oakland, go through a sanitization process and pick up more patients.

The most critically injured children will be moved by special teams from Children's, Magee-Womens Hospital and STAT MedEvac.

Darci Robinson, a registered nurse who oversaw Joe's move, said she believes patients will enjoy the ambulance ride.

"They'll think it's cool." Their parents, she acknowledged, might worry a little.

Joe Smydo can be reached at or 412-263-1548.


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