By late Friday afternoon, Aug. 21, officials at Dallas’ Parkland Health & Hospital System were beaming with pride after 626 patients were transferred successfully from the 61-year-old Parkland Hospital to a shiny, new 862-room, $1.3 billion facility a day ahead of schedule.

“Our staff is beyond excited about [having] the opportunity to care for patients,” says Kris Gaw, executive vice president and chief administrator for hospital operations. “We have been preparing for this move for well over a year and challenged ourselves to plan for every possible scenario that could potentially arise.”

Scenario planning gave way to action early on Aug. 20. At 6 a.m., Parkland’s old Level I trauma center and its emergency department shuttered, opening simultaneously in the new facility. At 6:20 a.m., an ambulance delivered the first ED patient. Roughly 40 minutes later, expectant mother Nedra Washington became the first inpatient transferred to the new building via the glass-enclosed sky bridge connecting the buildings. All told, 18 newborns took their first breaths in the new hospital that day.

At 7:35 a.m., a helicopter landed on the 17th floor helipad transporting the new facility’s first trauma patient, a motor vehicle collision victim. The patient and a trauma team zoomed down to the street-level located Rees-Jones Trauma Center in one of two giant elevators — dubbed Megavators — arriving at the center just 30 seconds later.

Plans for the scheduled three-day transfer called for labor and delivery patients to move first, followed by babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. The staff ran through many practice sessions and mock transfers. It was estimated that staff would transport one patient every 4 seconds, but the hospital transferred a patient every 1.7 seconds. About 40 percent of the equipment and supplies from the old Parkland hospital were being sterilized and refurbished as needed for use in the new facility.

Patient safety during transfer was supported by a series of safety checks. Beforehand, patients were given a comprehensive computerized assessment and a medical evaluation. Doctors and nurses accompanied and supervised the patients across the sky bridge and a care team evaluated patients in their new rooms.

“If we can move 600 patients while also effectively caring for our other patients, we will declare it a safe and efficient and successful move,” says Alexander Eastman, M.D., medical director and chief of the trauma center; and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. “Our major hurdle is getting the patients used to this fantastic new building.”