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Children's Hospital Rehearses Move

PITTSBURGH -- The worst thing that could have happened during Saturday's practice patient move at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh was for nothing to go wrong during the transfer from the Oakland hospital to the new one in Lawrenceville.

"I want a problem of some kind because I want all my bases covered," said Jennifer Iagnemma, a registered nurse at Children's who will direct the actual move on May 2.

Nearly 100 emergency medical technicians and nurses participated in yesterday's four-hour "mock move," in which 35 mannequins with imaginary medical conditions were transferred by ambulance. The hospital will conduct one more practice in April before moving day, when about 150 patients would be transferred over a 12-hour period.

Yesterday's mock move went smoothly, though Iagnemma did get at least one minor problem when the radio assigned to Carrie Moelber, a Children's nurse coordinating transfers from half the floors involved in the exercise, didn't work.

"That's the biggest thing about today -- communication is key," said Moelber, just after a new radio was delivered to her.

Though the move teams met at the hospital at 10 a.m. and nine ambulances lined up outside the garage, no mannequins were moved until a little after 11:30 a.m. because of meetings involving the participating nurses and paramedics.

When patients are moved for real in May, nearly 200 staff and 40 ambulances will be involved. Most patients will be stable, but need care for serious medical conditions that range from cancer to organ transplants. Some will be on ventilators or have serious problems that make their health unstable.

To make the mock move more realistic, some teams were thrown unexpected problems during transport -- such as one pretend patient having breathing difficulty.

"We knew going into this practice that our communication plan was a little unsteady," Iagnemma said after the mock move concluded. "But we already met to talk and we're putting plans in place to fix it. So, other than that, the process is a solid one."

A child CPR dummy transferred by Children's nurse Darci Robinson of Elizabeth Township yesterday depicted a 7-year-old boy with cancer. The mannequin went from the 8th floor of the old hospital to the 9th floor of the new hospital in about 10 minutes.

"He's neutropenic -- that means his white blood cell count is low so he's more susceptible to infection," Robinson said, pointing out a surgical mask on the dummy. "So normally we'd have him hooked up to oxygen, and we'd need to make sure that worked OK."

The pretend boy was met in Lawrenceville by a receiving team that included Children's oncology nurse Jamie Perrucci of Bethel Park.

"It went very smoothly on our end," Perrucci said. "We knew what time the patient left Oakland and they showed up here right on time. We got the patient in his room and had respiratory therapy ready to go."

On her way out of the new hospital, Perrucci paused in the colorful entry lobby to reflect on how much it has changed since her last visit in June.

"It's completely different," she said. "It's amazing, it's just so nice. It's so much more up-to-date and kid-friendly."

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