Laguna Honda set to take over new space in first-of-its-kind move

When one of the largest hospitals in the nation moves virtually all its contents to a new building, there are a million things to keep track of — medical records, oxygen machines, pharmaceuticals. And even 6-inch-tall dogs with red sweaters.

Everything — down to the brown stuffed dog, which is of vital importance to a dementia patient who always feels more comfortable when she has it near her — is on a checklist somewhere, and it too will be moved next week, when Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center finally makes its long-anticipated transition to a new building.

On Nov. 18, after years of delays and massive cost overruns, the public nursing hospital received approval from the Office of Statewide Hospital Planning and Development to move into its new building. State health officials have been doing final inspections.

Hospital officials are wasting no time readying for the move. Long ago, they developed a moving plan: Take half the 750 patients in the hospital Tuesday and the other half Wednesday.

This may be the largest endeavor of its kind in American history, hospital administrators say. Other public hospitals have moved wings or expanded to new buildings, but, according to hospital spokesman Marc Slavin, no facility the size of Laguna Honda has moved entirely from one building to another.

Patients include people in hospice, those with HIV, and dementia patients who tend to wander.

In order to reduce any chance for complications, the move has been planned down to the very minute. Starting at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, patients will be methodically transported from their current beds in the old buildings — in some cases, dormitory-style beds built in the 1920s — to their single-bed rooms in the new buildings.

Every patient will be pushed in a wheelchair — even the 30 percent or so who are ambulatory without it. They will all be holding their own medical records and a bag of their most important items — the small stuffed dog, which comforts the dementia patient, would count among those items.

The hospital will ensure that there are familiar faces along the 15-minute walk from one building to the next, in order to comfort those who may become disoriented. Patients will be tracked from a central control room as they leave their rooms, along the path, and as they move into their new rooms, where they will be surrounded by nurses they are familiar with.

“A couple of our residents went over yesterday to see their rooms and take a tour of the hospital, and they were both very excited,” said nurse manager Jacky Spencer-Davies, head of the hospital’s Positive Care program for patients with HIV and AIDS. “They’ve seen it on paper of course — there’s a map in the hall they’ve seen — but they really loved seeing it in person.”

Nurse manager Chris Winkler, who has worked at Laguna Honda for 29 years, said she and her staff have discussed the move with their dementia patients, but only about half really understand what is going on. Winkler expects that they will be fine once the move is complete.

“Truthfully, this has been talked about for so many years, I’m just so happy for the residents to have it finally come to fruition,” she said.

Moving day

Patients will move to the new Laguna Honda Hospital early next week.

$584 million Cost of new facility

1,200 Beds initially anticipated

750 Beds constructed after cost overruns required downsizing

1866 Year original Laguna Honda opened

$10 million Cost of moving from old building to new one

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