Shands AGH closes

For 17 years Lonnie Mott has worked at Shands at AGH, but Sunday morning Mott, the Supervisor of the Respitory Department, packed his departments equipment into the back of a truck to be moved to the Shands Cancer Hospital. "I'm going to miss this hospital," Mott said. "My wife and my son where born here. "

Brad McClenny / Special to the Sun
Published: Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 7:22 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, November 1, 2009 at 7:22 p.m.

While many Gainesville residents were recovering from the post-game celebrations of Florida-Georgia weekend, the doctors, nurses and staff of Shands were hard at work.

Sunday was the day when Shands AGH would close its doors after 80-plus years of serving the community. At the same time, it was lights out for the emergency department at Shands at the University of Florida.

Across Archer Road from Shands UF, the Shands Cancer Hospital and Critical Care Center were opening for business on what Shands now calls its south campus.

Within Shands AGH on Southwest Second Avenue, the final phase of its planned closing went into action at about 6 a.m.

The last patient was transported from Shands AGH at 12:31 Sunday afternoon.

Dr. Steven Yucht, the hospital’s chief of staff, said shortly after 1 p.m. that he was “just going around turning out the lights.”

Yucht, who supervised the shutdown of the emergency department at Shands AGH, said he was sad to see AGH close.

Still, most of the staff had known for some time where they would be going when the doors of the community hospital, which opened in 1928, closed for good.

“Everybody knew they had a place to go before they left,” he said.

On Sunday, 18 patients were taken by ShandsCair to Shands UF. Three emergency cases also were transferred.

The last baby was born Friday at Shands AGH. Baby and mother were among those shifted to the third floor of Shands UF that same day.

Much of the equipment within the hospital will go to other Shands facilities, as will all of its artwork. A date has not yet been set to begin dismantling the building itself. Much of the material will be recycled.

The mood was one of excitement, according to Yucht.

“It might have been different if it was the last day for the staff, but most will be seeing each other again tomorrow ... just in a new location,” he said.

Plans for moving day started four to six months ago, and teams from nursing, the medical staff, operations, security and others went through a “mock move” about a month ago to assure that everything would go smoothly on the big day.

Over at Shands UF on Saturday, the nursing staff talked with cancer patients and their families who would be moved the next day.

At 7 a.m. Sunday when the plan went into action there, most of the patients were excited and ready to go, according to Helen Walsh, nurse manager of the oncology and post-transplant units at Shands UF.

By 2 p.m., Walsh reported, almost all of the patients had been moved to the new south campus.

Patients were wheeled through an underground tunnel to their bright new rooms in the Shands Cancer Hospital.

Ginny Christie, 67, was one of the cancer patients who was enjoying her new room on the eighth floor of the new hospital.

She said it took about four staff members to transport her from Shands UF, including someone to push her through the tunnel in a wheelchair, another to transfer her luggage and one to push the stand with her intravenous fluids.

She has been receiving treatment for leukemia at Shands UF for the past couple of weeks. Right now, she is waiting for a bone marrow transplant.

“I feel like I’ve moved into the Hilton,” Christie said from a room overlooking Paynes Prairie. “My husband can sleep on a futon bed here, instead of our blow-up air bed.”

Christie said she felt like a pioneer, but she was hardly roughing it in her new digs.

“I picked the perfect day to be transferred,” she said. “The enthusiasm and pride of the whole staff is contagious.”

Clad in an orange-and-blue Gator wig, Christie was an enthusiastic cheerleader from her bed.

Her spirit was apparent, as it was at age 55, when she ran her first marathon, or more recently, when she began hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Her husband Curtis said the fact that Ginny was healthy and fit has given her best possible chance of recovery. The couple are retired from Gainesville Regional Utilities and are proud of the fact that GRU’s new plant will be providing all the power for the new hospital.

Christie said as nice as her new room is, she’s looking forward to being back out on the Appalachian Trail.

“I only have 1,700 miles to go,” she quipped.

At 7 a.m. in the emergency department of Shands UF, Dr. Adrian Tyndall, chief of emergency services, was shutting down the ER. Any ambulances that turned up there after 7 were directed across the street to the Critical Care Center that is a part of the new hospital.

In the new emergency department, Tyndall said, they were having a very busy morning, including two trauma cases — one brought by helicopter from the Jacksonville area — and two surgeries in the new operating rooms.

Hundreds of hours of work by members of the staff assured that the new emergency department and trauma center were stocked and fully equipped.

Tyndall said that the response to the new pediatric area and waiting room has been particularly positive.

Sunday morning proved busier than usual, even apart from the move, the emergency medicine specialist related.

“But we’ve got our sleeves rolled up,” Tyndall said. “We were ready to go, and our beds are full.”

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