To prep for move-in, new University of Iowa Children's Hospital will run drills

A logistical session and two dry runs planned before big Dec. 10 move

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IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa Children’s Hospital is on track to make its migration from the main campus to a new 14-floor tower in just three months.

That Dec. 10 move will involve transferring young patients — possibly more than 100 — along with equipment, staff and faculty into the new, 507,000-square-foot UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital in one day.

To prepare, the hospital will conduct two dry runs — like drills — in October and November.

First, officials will sit down later this month for a “table top exercise” to talk through logistics of the massive move, said Scott Turner, co-chief operating officer and executive director of the Children’s Hospital.

“We’re talking about moving kids, so obviously safety and quality is at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” Turner said Wednesday after accompanying several members of the Board of Regents on a tour of the new hospital. “So we will have three drills just to make sure that everything’s going to go just the way we’ve scripted it and planned it.”

He said the university’s “incident command center” will be ready — “just as we would for any big event that may take place here on campus.”

Despite hiccups that have inevitably cropped up since construction of the $360 million project began in 2012, Turner said some of the staff will start their migration around Thanksgiving.

“We’ve got thousands of people that are totally committed to our project,” he said. “That’s really the power of our project and the power of the spirit here at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.”

Eastern Iowa has seen more than $1 billion in construction activity, which Turner said has made accessing the skilled trades needed a challenge. After securing additional labor to frame and drywall the building, he said, crews are focusing on the flooring.

“We’ve got great terrazzo floors,” he said, noting those need special installers. “You kind of solve one problem and then get ready for the next. It’s a constant activity of coordination and successive planning.”

The new hospital will provide 134 private inpatient rooms, plus provide for another 49 neonatal rooms on the main campus. Turner said how many of those are occupied on Day 1 will depend on the patient census.

“We’ve had a number of days over the last two to three weeks where we’ve been at over 100 percent capacity in the NICU,” he said. “The additional bed capacity will certainly help with that.”

And, Turner said, “If the kids across Iowa and the surrounding region need our service, yes … we have 183 beds ready to go to serve their needs.”

The new hospital also will free up bed space in the main hospital for adult patients.

“We also are often at 95 to 100 percent full in our adult patient beds so the other important aspect of this project is it allow us to go and convert the spaces that the children’s programs leaves behind and covert those to adult patient rooms,” Turner said.

UI Health Care is recruiting 229 new full-time staff members for the hospital, 124 of whom have been hired and 18 more who are in the process of starting.

“So there’s about 83 folks that we’re still in the process of recruiting,” Turner said.

That includes mostly housekeeping and food and nutrition workers, but doesn’t include the about 50 pediatric physicians added over the past four years. He said the new facility has helped with recruiting.

“As you can imagine, giving them a tour and giving them an overview of the building, they couldn’t help but be impressed,” he said.

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