Cumberland Times-News

November 21, 2009

First patient says no way to compare old and new hospitals

Kristin Harty Barkley

CUMBERLAND — The sun wasn’t up yet Saturday when William Wiegand was loaded onto an ambulance and transported to the new Western Maryland Regional Medical Center.

The 83-year-old arrived just after 6 a.m., earning the distinction of being the hospital’s first patient.

“I give it two ‘Fs,’” Wiegand said later Saturday aftternoon, resting comfortably in his double room on the fifth floor. “Fantastic Facility. There’s nothing to compare it to around here.”

Crews from two Baltimore ambulance companies moved more than 150 patients to the new hospital Saturday from Braddock and Memorial campuses, which both closed for good before the end of the day.

The massive logistical effort went off without a hitch, hospital officials said, except for one surprise.

They got done early.

“It actually took a lot less time than we anticipated,” said Barry Ronan, president and CEO, adding that crews had to take a 30-minute break mid-morning because they were so far ahead of schedule that hospital staff couldn’t get the necessary equipment in place to keep up.

By 3:30 p.m. — two-and-a-half hours early — crews had transported 92 patients from Braddock and 62 patients from Memorial, Ronan said.

Thirty ambulances, all equipped with advanced life support, whisked patients across town, following specific traffic patterns and a rigid routine.

Adam Burgan directed an ambulance Saturday afternoon as it backed up to the Emergency Department entrance to drop off another patient. Wiping the back door handle with a sanitary wipe first, he opened the door and helped unload the passenger — a baby enclosed in an “isolet” to keep warm.

“They roll in, we get them out and get the unit out of the way,” said Burgan, an EMT with Butler Medical Transport, who arrived in Cumberland Friday night and started work Saturday around 6 a.m.

“It’s been a long day, but it’s almost done,” Burgan said.

On the fifth floor, a freshly shaven Wiegand said the new hospital is a vast improvement.

“After you’ve been in here, there’s no way to compare the two,” said Wiegand, who had checked into the Braddock campus Thursday afternoon with breathing problems. One of the best things about his new digs: The food.

“For breakfast I had oatmeal and pears and pancake and sausage, coffee,” said Wiegand, of LaVale. “They had everything. A while ago I had macaroni and cheese and broccoli and pears and coffee and tomato soup. ... It’s just like being at home.”

Contact Kristin Harty Barkley at