Health professionals started moving into the new Warren Memorial Hospital this week as they anticipate the official opening of the facility on Wednesday morning.

Though it’s an extraordinary job to move operations from one hospital to another, administrators say that having an empty hospital in the short term is a rare opportunity to run mock scenarios with hospital staff and emergency personnel from the sheriff’s office, police department and fire and rescue services.

“That was a once in, probably, a lifetime opportunity,” said Terri Mayes, vice president of Warren Memorial Hospital.

Other drills and scenarios the staff is offering over several days include taking medical professionals through the operating room, the emergency department and the medical and surgical inpatient unit.

The team is also considering how it will integrate with medical offices relocating to the campus at 351 Valley Health Way, Front Royal.

Staff are very much focused on the move, said Priscilla Phelps, senior facilitator for performance improvement at Page Memorial Hospital, who is on special assignment to Warren Memorial as operational project lead for the move.

She said they have been planning for the move for about a year.

“And we’re now down to the nitty-gritty, actually have movers on-site,” she said  Thursday. “I think we’re probably not quite 50% moved.”

One of the largest departments moving equipment from the existing Warren Memorial Hospital at 1000 N. Shenandoah Ave. involves surgical services, the operating room and the cath lab, Phelps said.

They were expecting 15 trucks would be needed to move equipment from that department alone, she said.

Still, most of what’s entering the new hospital is brand-new furniture and state-of-the-art equipment.

“Very little is coming from the old building, in theory,” Phelps said.

It’s a huge undertaking, and to help ensure everything goes smoothly, staff are working from various checklists so they know where everything needs to be and how to find it quickly and efficiently.

That’s actually one of my biggest fears is wayfinding for the staff,” Phelps said.

During normal operations, the staff works from checklists to ensure appropriate care and cleaning requirements. But the opening of a new hospital with brand-new equipment brings similar considerations like terminal cleaning, sterilization of equipment and ensuring particle-free air where necessary.

“We take that very seriously,” Mayes said. “There are quite a number of checklists that we have to go through. … There are so many things here that affect patient safety and quality care.”

One of the most exciting additions to the new hospital is the MyChart Bedside program that’s part of Valley Health’s Epic platform. The system uses electronic devices on which patients and their families can access information about upcoming procedures and also communicate with the care team and other hospital staff.

Mayes said this is an upgrade from the dry erase boards that the hospital staff has been using to let patients know who their care team members are.

Patients will also be able to place orders from the hospital cafeteria using MyChart Bedside.

During the move, Warren Memorial has suspended surgical procedures, planning to resume its schedule in the new location as of June 28, Phelps said.

Any patients who need emergency surgical procedures before June 28 will be transferred to Winchester Medical Center, she said.

However, the emergency room and inpatient services are still fully operational at the existing hospital and will be until 6 a.m. Wednesday, when staff will move patients to the new hospital.

“We do have people at the old hospital still and will continue to have people at the old hospital until every patient is moved on the 23rd,” Phelps said. “We’re actually running two hospitals in tandem.”

All hospital patients will be moved via ambulance, and Mayes said that Valley Medical Transport has promised eight ambulances for the effort.

It’s roughly a 30-minute round trip between hospitals, and Mayes said the ambulances will keep running the circuit until all patients are transferred.

“There will be no break in patient care,” Mayes said. “It will be a safe transition.”

Asked how it feels to be moving in, Phelps said it’s an exciting day.

“I’m really, really excited for the community,” she said.

Mayes agreed, saying she’s received great feedback from people who have toured the hospital so far.

“The community has been really supportive in terms of supporting our foundation with donor gifts,” she said.

“It’s been wonderful to see the community support and to hear positive feedback,” she said. “Every comment, I mean 100% of those comments was positive.”

Contact Josette Keelor at jkeelor@nvdaily.com