MICHIGAN CITY — A month before the opening of its new state-of-the art facility on the south side, officials and staff of Franciscan Health Michigan City have been busy preparing and training.
The $243 million hospital made its public debut last week at a blessing ceremony and series of open house events that culminated 21/2 years of construction and preparation.
“The open houses far exceeded my expectations,” Dean Mazzoni, hospital president and CEO, said. “All three days were well attended, especially the VIP event and the community event, which were both beyond capacity.”
The celebration kicked off Dec. 6 with a Rite of Blessing of the Altar and Dedication of the Chapel, presided over by the Most Rev. Donald Hying, bishop of the Diocese of Gary.
Blessing and dedication of the hospital followed before a VIP reception and open house that drew more than 500 guests. The next day, Franciscan Health employees were invited to tour the new hospital, which will be the crown jewel of more than 100 years of service to the city.
“The Sisters have had a health care ministry in Michigan City for over 114 years, when our first Sisters came to Michigan City to serve the ill and needy,” Sister Petra Nielsen, vice president of mission integration, said.
“At that time, there were still horse and buggies traveling about. And now, this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility will allow the Sisters of St. Francis, its dedicated employees, physicians and volunteers to continue their mission another 100 years to come. “
The events culminated with a public open house on Dec. 8, when an estimated 3,000 community residents got their first glimpse of the “future of healthcare,” Mazzoni said, and enjoyed self-guided tours, free health screenings, live ice sculpting and giveaways.
Mazzoni had praise for all the staff involved in the open houses.
“I was most excited to show off our great people – all of the blue shirt volunteers, many who attended all three days for many hours,” he said.
“They made the events possible and a huge success, and it reminded me of how much ownership our people have in this new facility. They helped us design and build it – doctors, nurses, alongside housekeepers and maintenance. It is their hospital!”
After a week of showing off the facility, the staff got down to some more serious business.
Dec. 11 it was preparation for the worst possible scenario with Michigan City Police.
“As a proactive approach to interacting with the community and the new state of the art Franciscan Hospital, the Michigan City Police SWAT Team conducted its monthly training on the hospital grounds,” on Dec. 11, according to MCPD Sgt. Chris Yagelski.
They conducted an active shooter drill inside and outside the facility.
“Cpl. Jeff Piotrowski, and officers Dave Cooney and Steve Forker, commanders for our elite SWAT team, approached the hospital to receive permission to conduct their active shooter walk-through and training inside the grounds and building,” Yagelski said.
“Our team worked directly with Safety and Security Director Greg Arndt and his entire security staff to ensure everyone knows their duties, responsibilities and procedures in the event of any occurrence,” Yagelski said.
“This practice instilled greater knowledge to our SWAT members of the layout of the facility” through “numerous drills ... to insure an understanding of the entire building and grounds.”
Police Chief Mark Swistek added, “The more hands-on style of training our officers are subjected to will ensure we are preparing ourselves to protect not only the citizens of Michigan City, but our children and their future.”
The training session included numerous vehicles, personnel and equipment at the hospital, with officers wearing green SWAT gear or uniform dress, Yagelski said.
Two days later, the hospital conducted a training exercise for its helipad landing and fly zone, according to spokesman Robert Blaszkiewicz.
The drills included landings, take-offs and practice for loading and unloading patients near the hospital’s Emergency Department.
Blaszkiewicz said everything went down without a hitch, and the chopper crew even took the time to take some new aerial shots of the facility.
On Friday, the week concluded with a mock move exercise in which nurses, ambulance crews and staff went through classroom training and a walk-through to look for glitches in the plan to move patients from the present facility on the north side to the new hospital on Jan. 12.
Franciscan Health Michigan CIty vice president of operations Trish Weber said almost everything in the hospital is new.
“Most of the equipment is new. Some equipment was moved – the CAT scans are just a couple of years old – but most was purchased as part of the $243 million project. There are new operating rooms and cath lab, a new MRI machine.”
She said some of the old equipment will be taken to other Franciscan hospitals, or to clinics run by staff physicians; and some may be sold to other hospitals or facilities.
There will be some new employees as well. Weber said Franciscan is looking to add staff, especially nurses. “We have openings and we are interviewing,” she said.
She said there are reps for all that new equipment on site at the facility for training.
“Nurses and staff have been going back and forth from the old facility to the new facility for training and to learn the new space, new tools, emergency preparation and emergency planning.”
Kathy Sheffield of FDI consulting, one of the companies helping coordinate the move, said, “A big part of the planning is orientation to the new facility.”
Weber added, “There are still some preparations being done at the new hospital, some finishing touches like furniture, testing equipment and set-up. But I think everything has gone pretty smoothly. It’s been a lot of work.”