Le Bonheur officials plan to move 181 patients from the existing hospital to their new facility over the next few days. More than 80 patients were being transported in their hospital beds Saturday, with nurses, doctors and staff accompanying each patient.
The 255-bed, $340 million hospital in Memphis is geared to care for the more than 130,000 sick and injured children who come from within a 250-mile radius each year.
Le Bonheur celebrated the construction of the new building in June. The expansion is expected to enhance Memphis' status as a center for child medical care. The widely respected St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is nearby.
A 60-bed emergency department that can handle major trauma cases opened Friday and saw more than 70 patients.
The first to be moved Saturday was 6-year-old Allen Edwards of West Memphis, Ark. The boy suffers from a neurological disorder.
Each move takes between eight and 20 minutes, depending on each patient's level of care, hospital spokeswoman Anne Glankler said. The process has been planned for two years and rehearsed three times.
"It's going like clockwork," Glankler said.
The project is somewhat unique: a large commercial construction project built in a difficult economic climate. The decision to build was made in 2005 and groundbreaking was in February 2008.
A $103 million contribution from the Memphis community helped with construction costs. The donation is the community's response to persistent problems with infant mortality, teen pregnancy and chronic disease, and emerging threats from childhood obesity and diabetes.
What does it offer?
The new hospital contains private rooms with sleeping space for two parents. Besides the emergency department, it also has a 60-bed neonatal intensive care unit and a 20-bed pediatric intensive care unit.
A computer-based call system features mobile communication devices that allow nurses to see which child requires care, and what the patient needs. Wireless technology provides constant electroencephalogram monitoring of epileptic children, even when they are not in their room.
For patients who are transported to the hospital by helicopter, a dedicated elevator takes just one minute to take them from the roof to the emergency room.
Some amenities are intended to make hospital stays easier for parents and children. Each patient room has a 32-inch flat screen, high-definition television with a jack to accommodate video game systems and other personal electronic devices.
And, a family resource center will let parents use computers to catch up on business or research their child's illness with the help of an educator.