Children's staff plan for the unexpected in 'mock move' to new Oishei hospital

Sep 22, 2017

How do you get to a new hospital? Practice, practice, practice. That’s exactly what the staff at Women and Children’s Hospital did Friday morning to prepare for the move to their new home.


Early in the morning, Erin Sassone got into a bed in the labor and delivery department of Women and Children’s Hospital. Normally, she’s a Senior Marketing Associate for Kaleida Health. But on this day, she was one of the 11 hospital staff members who became a mock patient for the practice journey from the hospital’s current Bryant Street location in Buffalo to the new Oishei Children’s Hospital on Ellicott Street.

As the practice began, upwards of twenty people filled a makeshift command post on the ground floor of Women and Children’s. Another just like it was set up at the new hospital. In both, staff and representatives from the hospital, Kaleida Health, AMR ambulance service, the City of Buffalo, and Erie County tracked the flow of patients on large screens and white boards for the third mock move the hospital has executed.

Timothy Kornacki (left) helps manage the command post at Women & Children's Hospital.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

“We’re working through the whole process to ensure that we have everything really nailed down from a minute-to-minute basis,” said Women and Children’s President Allegra Jaros. Thousands of hours have gone into planning the move, and Jaros said families should feel comfortable with the experienced staff that will orchestrate it.

“We expect to have a few delays throughout the course of the day, but it’s really not about how fast we’re going. Our biggest concern is making sure that we slow down and make sure we’re focused on our patients throughout the entirety of the day.”

On November 11 – the planned day of the move – those patients could number anywhere from 160 to 200.

Upstairs in the labor and delivery department, Sassone was being prepped by Registered Nurse Maria Antonova, who told Sassone her job was to pretend to be a pregnant mother. It was a nice preview because, in real life, Sassone is due to have her first child just ten days after the actual move.

“It should be post-move, hopefully. I am due November 20 so, hopefully, as long as I go on time it will be in the new hospital,” said Sassone.

A team in the labor and delivery department prepares Sassone for transport.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

As she took Sassone’s vital signs and prepared the equipment that would need to travel with her patient, Antonova gave a piece of advice for the move: expect the unexpected.

“[In] labor and delivery, we can go from having no patients, everything calm, to rolling in and busy like an ER,” said Antonova.

Not long after, Antonova and a team of emergency medical technicians whisked Sassone out of her room on a stretcher and through the hospital’s front doors to a waiting ambulance.

Halfway through the one mile ride, the unexpected came. Sassone gave birth to her mock baby girl – a plastic doll subtly hidden under her hospital gown.

In the ambulance, moments before Sassone gives mock birth to her plastic baby.
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Antonova called the command post to report the event, and the EMTs re-routed the ambulance to the Oishei emergency department where a trauma room was waiting for their arrival.

Only a handful of staff knew that Sassone’s surprise birth was coming. It represented one of the biggest concerns for the day of the actual move: a medical emergency taking place between the two hospitals.

Back at Women and Children’s, the exercise had calmed down after a few hours of excitement. Stepping away from managing the command post, Kaleida Health Corporate Emergency Manager Timothy Kornacki said the move was going well, but even he didn’t know Sassone’s birth was going to happen.

“And that’s really the best case scenario as you go through these mock drills,” said Kornacki. “You want those unexpected things. You have to think quickly, you have to put your training into effect.”

Kornacki has worked on bigger moves than this one, at least as far as numbers of patients go, but he said this move may prove to be more challenging given the acute conditions of some of Women and Children’s patients.

On the day of the actual move, the most critically ill children from the pediatric intensive care unit will be transported first. Following them will be hematology and oncology patients, labor and delivery mothers, neonatal intensive care unit patients, and then medical surgery patients.

Four routes through the city have been chosen – one for patients headed to the new site, one for ambulances to return to pick up more patients, another for truckloads of equipment, and one for families of patients to follow. Jaros said no roads will be closed, but the hospital will make sure the community is aware of the move, and ask that people steer clear. In the event of severe winter weather, the City of Buffalo has been asked to give priority to plowing the routes.

Emergency rooms, operating rooms, and the labor and delivery department at Women and Children’s will be open and staffed for the full day of the move. Starting at 7 a.m. the same day, anyone who visits the new hospital will find the ER, OR and labor and delivery wing open for business as well, and its where Jaros said they would prefer new patients go.

Charge Nurse Caroline Novotny-Schulefand put the move into perspective when she said, “This is history for Buffalo, so it’s very exciting. Very exciting to be part of.”