The banners covering the word “hospital” on the outdoor signs of the new St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon will be peeled off early Saturday morning.
That will be one of the signals to show that at 4 a.m. Saturday the hospital will officially open for business. At the same time, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville will close.
Throughout the day, dozens of patients will be transferred from downtown Belleville to the new hospital at the intersection of North Green Mount Road and Interstate 64 in O’Fallon.
Peg Sebastian, the CEO of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, was the top executive at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland when that hospital moved into a new building in 2013.
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And now she’s overseeing another transfer as St. Elizabeth’s relocates to O’Fallon from Belleville.
Sebastian said her experience in Highland revealed the strength of community support necessary for closing a hospital and opening another one on the same day. Indeed, one of the community partners assisting St. Elizabeth’s relocation is none other than nearby Scott Air Force Base, which has units that specialize in logistics and transporting wounded service members.
“We’ve capitalized on their expertise related to the timing, packaging and how swiftly certain services can be moved,” Sebastian said. “They’ve been a great insight for us.”
Scott personnel assisted St. Elizabeth’s during rehearsal drills for the hospital relocation and they will be on hand to help Saturday.
Sebastian met with the BND to talk about what metro-east residents need to know about the impending transfer from Belleville to O’Fallon:
Q: How do you move about 100 hospital patients from downtown Belleville to the O’Fallon hospital?
A: “We’ve been practicing and had four rehearsals so far to make sure we have best practices in keeping patients safe and also being swift in our movements,” Sebastian said.
“Starting at 0400, or 4 a.m. on Saturday morning, the new HSHS St. Elizabeth’s O’Fallon campus will open so the emergency department will open here in O’Fallon and at the same time, the emergency department in Belleville will close. So it’s shortly thereafter, at 5 o’clock in the morning that we will queue up 18 patients to move across three exits, with two patients leaving every 20 minutes.”
A squad of about 21 ambulances has been organized to transport patients from Belleville to O’Fallon. The trip takes about 18 minutes and the ambulances will not be running lights and sirens.
Sebastian said the process is expected to end between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday.
“We have a triage review that takes place daily right now but going into Thursday, Friday, we’ll have them three to four times a day to make sure we know how many patients will be requiring transportation versus those that might be discharged the same day on Saturday,” Sebastian said.
If the move had occurred earlier in the week, about 100 patients would have had to been transferred.
Communication command posts will be established at each hospital at 2 a.m. Saturday to coordinate the patient transfer.
Also, to reduce the number of patients who needed to be transferred, all elective surgeries were scheduled to be completed by Wednesday.
Q: What happens if someone needs to go to the emergency room about 4 a.m. Saturday?
A: The Belleville emergency room can accept new patients up until 4 a.m. when the O’Fallon ER will start taking patients.
After 4 a.m., St. Elizabeth’s will have ambulances on standby in case someone arrives at the Belleville ER at 211 S. Third St. after the unit is closed.
“We know that people will still not have known about the time of the move or the day of the move and still arrive at the campus so EMS personnel are there to support those that might arrive on the campus after the emergency department has closed,” Sebastian said.
Q: What about the patients who are still in St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville after 4 a.m?
A: Although the Belleville site will no longer be accepting new patients, the persons who are waiting to be transported to O’Fallon will still get the medical care they need.
“What we’ll have concurrently in both buildings is always the opportunity and ability to care for patients that are in the facility that might need emergent surgery or need emergent cardiac catheterization so both hospitals will be fully staffed at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Sebastian said.
To help staff both hospitals at the same time, St. Elizabeth’s parent organization, Hospital Sisters Health System, or HSHS, will send about 100 employees from other HSHS hospitals in the region. Springfield-based Hospital Sisters Health System has 15 hospitals in Illinois and Wisconsin.
Overall, about 800 medical staffers will be working Saturday during the relocation along with 140 information technology employees.
St. Elizabeth’s only has one hospital permit from the state of Illinois so it can only have one hospital open at a time for new patients.
Q: How can someone contact St. Elizabeth’s for information about the relocation and how to find out if a doctor has moved?
A: Call the main St. Elizabeth’s number at 618-234-2120. This number is not changing. Also, check the hospital’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates on the hospital relocation.
Q: When can someone visit a patient in the O’Fallon hospital on Saturday?
A: “On opening day, all of the family members and loved ones of patients will know what time to arrive at the hospital because we want to safely and privately move patients to the hospital,” Sebastian said.
“We’re respectfully requesting that visitors not join and visit until well into the afternoon. And those that would just like to tour the hospital, that won’t be available on Saturday because we want to respect the privacy of the patients that will be moving to the O’Fallon campus.”
Q: Will the North Green Mount Road entrance be open?
A: Orange construction barrels have lined North Green Mount Road in front of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon where roadwork is ongoing. But O’Fallon City Engineer Jeff Taylor said the North Green Mount Road entrance to the new hospital is scheduled to be open by late Friday afternoon. Also, a new traffic light at the entrance is expected to be working by Friday afternoon.
Q: What’s going to happen on the Belleville site?
A: A security fence will be erected around the property on Saturday after all the patients have been moved to O’Fallon. Also, signs will be erected informing the public about the relocation to O’Fallon and the services that will continue in Belleville. St. Elizabeth’s plans to demolish the Belleville buildings since it could not find a buyer for the site. St. Elizabeth’s in Belleville traces its roots to 1875 when three nuns from Germany established a hospital.
Q: What services will remain in downtown Belleville?
A: St. Elizabeth’s will continue to offer various outpatient services in Belleville in two buildings beginning Monday.
A walk-in clinic, a primary care clinic, physical therapy, physician offices and other services will be available at 180 S. Third St.
Another primary care clinic and physician offices will be in a building at 311 W. Lincoln St.
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital at a glance
- St. Elizabeth’s Hospital will open at 4 a.m. Saturday near the intersection of North Green Mount Road and Interstate 64. At the same time Saturday, St. Elizabeth’s will close its hospital in downtown Belleville.
- The new hospital at 1 St. Elizabeth’s Blvd. cost $253 million and will have 144 beds. Construction began in 2015.
- A $34 million ambulatory care center is adjacent to the hospital. The total cost of the O’Fallon campus on 120 acres is valued at $300 million.
- The main phone number remains 618-234-2120. You also can get information from St. Elizabeth’s on Facebook and Twitter.