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November 21, 2009

‘History in the making’

Transition ‘smooth’ for new Western Maryland Regional Medical Center

CUMBERLAND — Western Maryland Regional Medical Center opened early Saturday morning as scheduled, after more than three years of construction and five years of planning.

Corridors bustled with activity, as staff set about their new routines. By 1 p.m. — seven hours after the official opening — a peaceful sort of excitement had settled in.

A grand player piano serenaded visitors and staff in the lobby of the main entrance.

A security guard whisked down the hallway on a Segway.

A Medivac helicopter landed on the concrete pad outside.

“Our emergency department has been exceedingly busy since we opened at 6 a.m.,” said Barry Ronan, president and CEO of Western Maryland Health Systems, the parent company of the new hospital.

“We’ve had numerous ambulances. Lots of activity. Just your typical hospital.”

And yet, for Western Maryland, it’s a full 585,000 square feet of “new.”

The $268 million hospital — with expanded services and updated equipment — takes the place of the Braddock and Memorial campuses of WMHS, which were both permanently closed by Saturday afternoon.

For some, the transition is bitter-sweet.

“You know, my baby was born in Sacred Heart a lot of years ago,” said Regina Branson, a clinical RN instructor at Allegany College of Maryland, referring to the Braddock campus. Her eyes got a little misty.

“And I kind of grew up in Sacred Heart with my nursing career ... But like everyone says, this is history in the making.”

Branson, who led a group of students on a tour of the new hospital Saturday afternoon, was at the Braddock campus earlier in the morning, watching ambulance crews load and transport patients to the new hospital.

“It just went so smooth,” she said. “It was amazing. I didn’t see any glitches at all.”

That wasn’t a fluke. Hospital officials have been strategizing for more than two years to accomplish a seamless transition from old to new.

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