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Everything smooth as St. Elizabeth doors open

St. Elizabeth Hospital made a successful debut Feb. 2, opening the doors to a new era of health care on the Enumclaw Plateau.

“The planning really paid off,” St. Elizabeth President Dennis Popp said, noting that a few glitches have been discovered, but nothing that puts patient care at risk.

Making the across-the-street transition from the 61-year-old Enumclaw Regional Hospital to the sparkling new St. Elizabeth was made with tactical precision and concluded months of careful planning. Three patients were transported from the old hospital to the new facility, ceremonially moved by crews from both the Enumclaw and Buckley fire departments. Both were invited to participate, demonstrating the hospital’s goal of serving the entire Plateau.

By 4 p.m. the first day, St Elizabeth had one additional patient admitted, had 14 patients treated in its emergency room and saw six surgeries performed. Additionally, 18 people were in for diagnostic imaging, which includes procedures like X-rays, mammograms and ultrasounds.

No babies were born on the hospital’s opening day, but the Cornerstone Café served 175 meals to employees and visitors.

The first surgical procedure at St. Elizabeth was performed by Dr. Nancy Becker, who removed the tonsils and adenoids from 6-year-old Caleb Riches.

Caleb knew he might be No. 1 and had excitedly told friends and classmates about his coming procedure. His mom, Nannette, said it was a blessing to have Caleb so excited about the ordeal.

Both Caleb and his mother gave the new hospital a glowing review. Caleb said the staff made him feel comfortable and were nice throughout the day. The family checked in about 7 a.m. and were headed back to their rural home by mid-afternoon, carrying a bag of souvenir gifts that were presented to all the Day 1 patients.

“It was wonderful,” Caleb’s mom said. “The whole experience went really well.”

Popp said the key to the successful transition was the detailed planning by Franciscan Health System, owner of Enumclaw’s replacement hospital.

Franciscan hired Kathryn Dahl to oversee the move and she spent nine months focused only on making the move across Battersby Avenue and into the new facility as smooth as possible.

“It was just fabulous,” Popp said of the entire planning process, adding that Dahl will be on board another month to tend to any remaining details.

“For the coming few months we’ll probably be making some tweaks,” Popp said. “There are a lot of sophisticated systems in this building.”

But the bottom line, he said, is the move was easy on both patients and a staff that was well-prepared.

“Each day, as I walk through the building, I see people settling in,” he said.

A public ceremony celebrating Enumclaw Regional Hospital and its importance in the community’s history begins at 4 p.m. Thursday.

The hour-long ceremony starts in the main lobby at the old hospital and will include a special flag ceremony by the local Veterans of Foreign Wars. The ceremony will conclude at St. Elizabeth Hospital with refreshments and guided tours of the new hospital.

Enumclaw Regional Hospital served the Plateau for 61 years. It will be demolished and the site will be converted to a parking lot for St. Elizabeth.

From 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, the public is invited to the Enumclaw Regional Hospital building for a sale of plants, furniture and other items. Proceeds will go to the Campaign for St. Elizabeth Hospital, designated to purchase artwork to further enhance the new hospital’s healing environment.

Items remaining after the sale will be donated to local charitable organizations.

The three large emergency power generators at Enumclaw Regional have already been donated to the city of Enumclaw, the city of Buckley and the city of Vashon Island.

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