Mercyhealth preparing for new Riverside hospital opening in one year

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Friday marks one year to the day until Mercyheatlh Hospital and Trauma Center-Riverside opens its doors. The hospital's employees are training to prepare themselves to smoothly transfer some of their most fragile patients.

"We are beyond thrilled to be able to go into a brand new state-of-the-art NICU," said Pam Allen, Mercyhealth Hospital’s NICU Manager.

Mercyhealth Hosptial's staff members have exactly one year to prepare to move about 135 of their patients from their Rockton campus to their new Riverside campus.

"Rockton Avenue, we're landlocked. We're not able to do a lot of the technology that we need to do. We can't get private rooms in the NICU, we just don't have space for it. By being able to open a new campus, it allows us to provide services that we just physically can't do here on this campus," said Riverside operations director Doreen Timm.

The $505 million regional hospital and medical center campus will include a perinatal center, neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and trauma center. Employees plan to move the entire NICU unit plus a handful of adults and babies based on the technology services the new facility will offer.

"The one thing we can improve on is the physical environment that we're in and that's what we gain by going to Riverside. It completes what these babies truly need to give them the best possible outcome," said Allen.

Right now the current NICU unit is an open environment.

"The big gain for families is that there is an actual family space in those private rooms now where they can stay with their babies around the clock," said Timm.

NICU health professionals have been training for the move for more than a month. They do timed drills on mock patients to estimate how long it will take to move approximately 52 of the region's smallest, most fragile patients. Every baby will have a transport nurse with them. They say they will need about 30 ambulances to make the move. They are working with ambulance vendors who have transferred dozens of babies before.

"We hopefully will come up with all the scenarios and things that we need so that when it comes to moving day, it is smooth, it is safe and we can just really focus in on those babies and keeping them safe and getting them into that beautiful new NICU," said Allen.

Employees plan to improve the Rockton campus as well. They are still deciding what the current NICU space will be used for after the move.

Staff members will continue to do mock drills up until moving day on January 5, 2019.