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Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Nurses Cathy Finn, left, and Denise Stoddard unpack medical supplies in an outpatient operation room in the Eccles Outpatient Care Center in the new Intermountain Medical Center in Murray.

Elective surgeries at LDS and Cottonwood hospitals have been halted to reduce the number of patients who will have to be moved when the new Intermountain Medical Center opens in Murray Monday.

And the "moving team" is busy with last-minute preparations for the daylong job of patient relocations, expected to involve hundreds of ambulance and air ambulance rides.

Around 4:30 a.m., nurses will begin preparing the patients — acute-care patients at LDS Hospital and pretty much everyone at Cottonwood — for the move, set to start at 6 a.m. Monday as ambulances begin rolling away from outside the emergency room at LDS.

The plan is to send a patient-filled ambulance every 10 minutes until all of those requiring intensive care are safely ensconced in the new hospital. They plan to make the half-hour journey on I-15 to 5300 South, then east to the new medical center. How many patients there will be won't be known until Monday morning, since sick people will continue to seek treatment between now and then.

Next, they will load up the babies, one at a time, from the neonatal intensive care unit for a six-minute LifeFlight helicopter ride to IMC, which is actually five specialty hospitals on one campus.

"That's the easiest and safest way to transport the babies," said spokesman Jess Gomez. "And that's something LifeFlight does all the time and is very good at."

Sean Murray, Intermountain's move manager, said they're expecting to move about 36 newborn intensive care patients, 120 adults from LDS Hospital and another 40 from Cottonwood Hospital. And that's not all they'll be moving. Some of the nurses who will start their workday at LDS Hospital will actually park at IMC and be bused, because as the acute-care area patient population moves out, so will the nurses, to their new assignment. They get to start the shift at one hospital and end at the other on Monday, he said.

As the new hospital is opening its doors — again at 6 a.m. Monday — 44-year-old Cottonwood Hospital's emergency room will close for the last time. When the last patient is moved to IMC, Cottonwood will be no more — aside from a small section of the third floor that will stay open to accommodate hospitalized patients of The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital until its own small hospital can be built in the next 18 months.

Intermountain Healthcare is taking some extraordinary steps to ensure patient safety during the relocation, Gomez said, including monitoring each patient through a computer program at the move's command centers. They'll be able to keep track of medical conditions and more.

And the 14 ambulances, which have been donated by Gold Cross for the move, are each outfitted with GPS devices so the move team can see where they are at all times.

From a staffing point of view, it's an unusual and mammoth undertaking. About 125 hospital employees will be actively involved in Monday's move, along with 30 LifeFlight team members and 65 Gold Cross employees, who have offered to help out. There's also a professional medical-equipment moving company, Allied Hospital Services, that will have about 40 people from all over the country on hand to transport medical equipment. And between 125 and 175 volunteers from the community, each with a specific role, will be assigned tasks like directing traffic and manning elevators to ensure a smooth transition.

Gomez said Monday was chosen because the weather is probably going to be good and the hospital census is usually lower at the beginning of the week.

E-mail: lois@desnews.com