Center for Care and Discovery officially opens to 145 patients

Center for Care and Discovery officially opens to 145 patients

After years of construction and planning, move-day organizers proclaim Feb. 23 a great success

February 26, 2013

It was exactly 7 a.m. when Karen Perlmuter offered a warm smile and gentle nod to her transport team as she started the well-orchestrated trip to her new room at the Center for Care and Discovery.

The 52-year-old Lincolnwood resident had heard and read much about the towering new structure, which she passed en route to Mitchell Hospital nearly a month earlier to begin treatment for acute myeloblastic leukemia. She was eager to settle into what her nurses have promised will be a tranquil, therapeutic space.

After a 10-minute voyage through a maze of underground corridors, she arrived on the 10th floor of the new hospital to a rousing greeting from nurses and staff. Her eyes settled on the stunning view of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan sparkling in the sunrise. She beamed as she took it all in.

"It's gorgeous," Perlmuter said, gazing out the wall of windows. "My belief before was that the room doesn't matter, the staff matters. But the view is so beautiful. It's truly healing. I feel connected to the outside world, not so isolated. I feel like I'm in a human place."

Perlmuter holds the distinction of being the Center for Care and Discovery's first patient. Her arrival in the new hospital marked its official opening on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, and completion of the single largest expansion in the University of Chicago Medicine's history. It's a long-awaited milestone for the more than 500 hundred physicians, nurses and staff involved in carrying out the complex logistics, critical timing and delicate transport of each patient from Mitchell Hospital to their new quarters.

Nurse Amee Eva offered Perlmuter a comforting pat on the shoulder and rushed off to receive her next patient, who was due arrive any minute.

"I'm thrilled to see her so happy with her new room," she said. "It's the perfect start to a challenging, but exhilarating day."

In the Command Center, which was set up as the operations base for all aspects of the move, move-day orchestrators closely monitored the progress of each patient.

"It's going great, absolutely terrific," said Stephen Weber, MD, chief medical officer and vice president for clinical effectiveness at the University of Chicago Medicine. "We're right on schedule. We were even running ahead of schedule, so we had to slow down a bit. Everyone is excited and really proud. With this hospital, we're investing in our patients, in science, in our community and in our staff."

One by one, patients were wheeled to their new rooms, attended by up to five caregivers. Some waved and flashed wide smiles as they headed down the final stretch.

Transporter Craig McGruder had been up since 3 a.m. and had dozens of patients left to move, but he was fueled by the energy of the day and the excitement of those he was there to serve. "It's been great," he said. "Everything's moving incredibly smoothly. We've had no issues at all. The patients are very positive and excited."

Among the many excited patients was Ruth Edelman, widow of Daniel Edelman, the late iconic public relations pioneer.

"Everyone was totally synchronized and that was so impressive," she said. "I love being able to look out over the lake and beautiful buildings. I also like the television, and I'm a Wolfgang Puck addict, so I'm pleased that I'll be able to order their little pizzas." (Wolfgang Puck Express will open to the public in March on the street level on the northeast side of the new hospital.)

Edelman's son, Richard, added his appreciation for the care given to providing comfortable accommodations for families.

"The alcove here is amazing," said Richard Edelman, pointing to the spacious sleeping area for family members whose loved one will be there for an extended period. "Usually you have to go to a visitors' conference room, but if she wakes up, we can pop right back over. Everyone feels like this is a facility equivalent to the level of the doctors here."

Ruth Edelman's daughter, Renee, chimed in. "The high-tech feel gives you the sense that the care will be the most efficient," she said. "And the view -- you don't feel depressed. You feel upbeat and optimistic. It gives you a sense of wellness and happiness. You have a positive attitude that you can beat this."

The finely tuned mechanics and collaborative rhythm of the day hummed toward a flawless finish. Approximately seven hours after start time, at 1:58 p.m., the final patient was safely settled at the Center for Care and Discovery -- two-and-a-half hours sooner than originally scheduled and about 50 patients fewer who needed to be moved. Hospital staff worked to lower the number of patients throughout the week, which helped to speed up the timeframe of the move.

Move leaders say the tremendous success of the day is a testament to the diligent planning over the past year and a half, but more importantly, to the army of health care professionals driven by a passion for patient care. All were aware that there was only one chance to get this right.

"Every patient is safe and sound, and that's what matters," said Debra Albert, chief nursing officer at the University of Chicago Medicine. "Thanks to great teamwork, meticulous planning and lots of practice by everyone involved, we surpassed our expectations."