Metro-East News

Building Memorial Hospital: It takes a team

Tour the new Memorial Hospital-East

Ruth Holmes, Memorial Hospital administrator, offers a tour of Memorial Hospital-East in Shiloh. The new facility is 90 percent complete and work is starting to equip and staff if for the first patients on April 12.
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Ruth Holmes, Memorial Hospital administrator, offers a tour of Memorial Hospital-East in Shiloh. The new facility is 90 percent complete and work is starting to equip and staff if for the first patients on April 12.

As construction workers are finishing the interior of Memorial Hospital East, employees at Memorial Hospital are frantically working behind the scenes to be ready when the keys to the new 94-bed facility are handed over in just two months.

“Getting the keys in December for us is really showtime,” said Merella Schandl, a transition occupancy planning coordinator at Memorial who is helping to oversee the transition plan. “That’s really when all of our hard work is going to pay off because we have a plan and we are ready.”

The building, located at 1404 Cross St., is approximately 90 percent complete, according to Ruth Holmes, administrator of Memorial Hospital East, with substantial completion expected by Dec. 16.

Mark Turner, CEO of Memorial Hospital, said the new $124 million hospital — which has been seven years in the making — is on schedule and on budget.

The first patient is expected to be treated when the new hospital opens on April 12, Turner said.

The original timeline Memorial provided to the state was June 2016. “So we are actually running ahead of schedule,” he said.

$124 million cost to build new hospital

In the four months between construction completion and opening day, hospital equipment will be brought in and set up and employees will be oriented to the new facility.

In addition, the hospital must be properly cleaned. Throughout Memorial Hospital East, “final clean” signs are hanging on doors of rooms in the building the construction team have determined to be clean.

“Construction has their way of final clean, and hospitals have their own way of final clean,” Holmes said. “We will come into the building in December and start that phase of next stage clean and final stage clean. ... There will be an absolute final stage clean before opening day.”

Drivers traveling down Cross Street may have noticed new traffic signals at one of the entrances to the new hospital. Holmes said those traffic lights should be operational this month. “We need it even at this point with just all the activity surrounding the construction,” she said.

Once open, the hospital will have two entrances: one for the public and one designated just for emergency vehicles. “I think we have done what we can getting ready for the opening day,” Holmes said.

Turner emphasized Cross Street and Lincoln Street have capacity to handle the increased traffic as a result of the new hospital. “Hopefully as individuals access the hospital we think they will learn to use those corridors more than some of the others,” he said.

Hospital officials have been working with St. Clair County officials on the projected expansion of Frank Scott Parkway East, which if extended would run across Memorial Hospital East’s southern border.

Major employer

Memorial Hospital East is expected to employ 673 people, according to Turner. However, he said, “a significant number will be transfers” from the Belleville hospital.

“We are in that process right now,” Turner said. “Specifically how that will lay out is something we will know in the next couple of months.”

Current employees who were interested in working at the new hospital had to apply and be interviewed, Turner said.

“Some of the positions we’re encouraging transfers,” he said. “Some we know we will have to hire outside.”

Thus far, Holmes said about 275 internal candidates have been hired to work at Memorial Hospital East.

The management team at Memorial including Holmes have been working diligently to figure out the balance of employees moving from the Belleville campus to the Shiloh campus and new hires, according to Turner.

“I think that’s probably harder than the construction project,” he joked.

Susan Stubblefield, a transition occupancy planning coordinator, said there are still a “couple hundred positions” available.

“There’s a lot of opportunities still out there. Both in clinical and non-clinial roles,” she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the community; not very often do you have hundreds of new jobs.”

TOP of their game

Memorial Hospital has three transition occupancy planning coordinators, or TOP, overseeing everything related to opening the new hospital in Shiloh. Transition occupancy planning is a “big part of getting the hospital ready to move to Memorial East,” Stubblefield explained.

The TOP coordinators work with 11 teams with 100-plus members who focus on different areas such as education and training; information technology; and procurement and installation of equipment/furniture.

“We are working on all the pertinent areas to get our staff, our facility and equipment ready,” Stubblefield said.

Schandl and Stubblefield have been working full time in their roles since January. Crystal Pilon, the other TOP coordinator, started working full-time in her role in July.

Change is part of the success of an organization, how we grow and serve our community.

Merella Schandl, a transition occupancy planning coordinator at Memorial

“It was just such an honor to even be asked to be a transition occupancy planning coordinator to help coordinate this project to opening day so we can provide a great place for patients in that area to come to,” said Schandl, who continues to work in her other position as director of medical affairs.

It’s been a privilege, she said, to help employees embrace the change. “Change is part of the success of an organization, how we grow and serve our community,” Schandl said. “It’s part of our job to ensure that they are comfortable with that change; they feel secure and are able to perform their jobs; and that in growing we are still providing the best quality care we can and ease that transition for them.”

To learn more about opening a new hospital, Schandl and Stubblefield traveled to Texas to visit the Baylor Scott and White Medical Center in Waxahachie, Texas, which moved from an existing facility to a larger five-floor hospital. They both were able to observe equipment moving into the new hospital in Texas and attend some of their meetings.

“It’s been very helpful to have them as a resource,” Stubblefield said. “We reached out to them often, and they have been willing to share their experience and give us some helpful hints.”

One important skill needed for a TOP coordinator is prioritizing, Schandl said, since there’s so much that needs to be done. Currently, she’s been working with the medical staff team to get physicians credentialed at the new facility. “We have a very strong physician engagement,” she said.

Schandl said Memorial has received about 50 allied health professional requests for the new hospital and 200 medical staff applications.

Once the new hospital is complete, it’s essential for employees who will be working there to get well acquainted with the new building. “We want (employees) to have the mindset that’s where we have always been,” Schandl said. “The (new) building has such a different layout than the Belleville facility.”

Memorial Hospital East is five-stories tall and is a “much more compact space” than the Belleville hospital, she said. “It will be a little different for employees.”

The Design and Process Quality Team is working to ensure only best practices will be used at the new facility. “There are very few things that will be new at the hospital that haven’t first been vetted at our Belleville campus,” Schandl said. “That’s important for patient care and staff comfort level.”

The Fit Up team is responsible for equipping the new hospital, which includes determining how many hand sanitizer stations are needed and where they should be placed and how many trash cans and recycle bins, among a slew of other items.

Where is all the equipment for the new hospital being stored? A warehouse facility in Earth City, Mo., according to Schandl.

“It’s going to be a phased and controlled fit up of the building,” Stubblefield said.

Woman behind the project

Holmes, who was named the administrator of Memorial East in March 2012, is the first point of contract for the construction team of Pepper Construction Group in Chicago and Holland Construction in Swansea. She also works closely with the architect HDR, Inc.

“I’ve really enjoyed being part of this leadership team,” Holmes said.

The team has weekly meetings on Wednesday, and Turner said he tries to attend every other one if his schedule allows.

“Ruth updates me probably several times a week,” Turner said. “It’s usually around questions that have popped up that need my input or my level of authority.”

A formal construction update report is provided to Turner and members of the hospital’s board of directors once a month.

Holmes will also have conference calls on Fridays if needed.

What’s the most challenging aspect of the job? “The ability to maintain an energy and enthusiasm level for the project,” Holmes said. “I ask God every day to make sure that I have all of what it takes to keep everyone’s continued interest.”

I have never made so many decisions every day. I mean, every day it’s the daunting task of making a decision to keep the project on schedule.

Ruth Holmes, administrator of Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh

In addition, Holmes has established a new comfort level when it comes to making decisions. “I have never made so many decisions every day,” she said. “I mean, every day it’s the daunting task of making a decision to keep the project on schedule.”

Once Memorial Hospital East is complete and open, Holmes plans to stay on as administrator.

“I will have the unique role of being the administrator who was also involved in design and construction of the hospital that they are actually working in,” she said.

Holmes has worked for Memorial for more than 35 years. Prior to her new role, she was the vice president of diagnostic services.

Design decisions

Memorial worked with a St. Louis designer — Standing Design — on the interior design of the Shiloh hospital. “They’re actually a leader in healthcare design,” Holmes said. “We used the standards we currently use at the Belleville campus.”

Memorial had a “select team,” which Holmes said included mostly women, who made the design selections for the new hospital.

Standing Design provided three or four different options for paint colors, flooring samples, and fabric choices. These decisions were made early on within the first six months of the project, according to Holmes.

“It’s good we did it that way,” she said, “because there’s no delays now.”

On occasion, Holmes said that product or fabric is no longer available so another choice has to be made. “All those things are coming in on time and again keeping the project on schedule,” she said.

Memorial’s infection prevention coordinator Sue Dinkleman was part of the design team, according to Holmes, and she visits the site on a regular basis.

Want to know more about Memorial Hospital East? Visit

Impact on Belleville campus

Once Memorial Hospital East opens, the Belleville hospital is expecting a decrease in patients, according to Turner, and that was by design. Currently, Memorial Hospital in Belleville has 316 beds and 94 of those will be moved to the Shiloh hospital.

Turner said the Belleville hospital will have 216 all-private bed suites. “Our overall capacity has probably increased,” he said, “but the Belleville capacity has decreased.”

While Belleville is licensed for 316 beds, Turner said the hospital’s functional capacity is about 270. “We will actually increase our functional capacity (for both hospitals combines) to 310,” he said. “At Belleville, it’s a lower capacity by design, but we expect the residents of Shiloh, O’Fallon and communities East of us will use this hospital that are currently using the Belleville campus.”

The Belleville and Shiloh hospitals will be connected, thanks to 16 miles of fiber optic cable underground. Holmes said Memorial East has two connections into the site—one in the north and one in the south. “They both are able to do the same thing,” she said. “What we have is a ring around the entire campus.”

Information technology is reliable “most of the time,” Holmes said. However, if one of the fiber optic lines were to fail the other can cover for it. “If the north goes down, the south can pick it up,” she said. “It’s that ability to make sure the connection is vital.”

Wi-Fi will be available throughout the entire building, and all cell phones will work. “That is my hope; that is my promise,” Holmes said. “With a new building you can certainly set your standards to what’s available now.”

Memorial Hospital officials hope to expand the Shiloh hospital, which sits on 94 acres, as the needs arises in the future.

“If we look 50 years ahead here, we would see significant expansion of the campus,” Turner said. “Some of that we have planned already. We know we will need medical office space here. We even built the hospital for some expansion in the future; it’s incorporated into the design.

“We will see a significant expansion of services over time. We will be responding to what the community need is and what the demand is.”

Features of Memorial Hospital East

  • 72 beds in private patient suites with observation window for nurses and couch that folds into a bed for family ‘We have distinct patient, staff and family zones in the room,’ said Ruth Holmes, hospital administrator
  • 16-bed obstetric unit; ‘Everything mother/baby is on the same floor,’ Holmes said.
  • Six-bed intensive care unit
  • Cardiac catheterization and gastrointestinal labs and a pharmacy
  • Private discharge area with covered canopy
  • Scenic campus with a lake, mature trees, natural grasses ‘All the things we are going to do to support that look of healing,’ Holmes said.
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