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Mark Brown/Staff Hospital staff and employees flow through the new Lompoc Valley Medical Center on the day of the switch from the old Lompoc Hospital. 062910

At 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, the front doors swished open with a whisper, and just like that, the new 60-bed Lompoc Valley Medical Center at 1515 E. Ocean Ave., was open for business.

Over at the old medical center at 508 E. Hickory Ave., Chief Information Officer Jim White was given the command to lock the front doors of the hospital.

It was 7:49 a.m.

“This is one of the biggest days of Lompoc history,” White said, while he continued to help coordinate the changeover.

For the first time since 1942, Lompoc has a new hospital.

The new facility, built for $80 million over the last five years, was largely funded with a community bond measure. It was designed to meet new state seismic building requirements that threatened to close the old facility.

The new medical center enjoyed a community ribbon cutting last month, and on June 23 achieved fully licensed status to become operational. Only one hurdle remained for the state-of-the-art facility: Transitioning staff, supplies, services and patients from one hospital to the other without sacrificing patient safety or level of care.

Medical Center Executive Director Jim Raggio said his staff had planned and prepared extensively for moving day.

“This is the last thing we have to do on this five-year project. We’re expecting it will go seamlessly, and somewhat effortlessly,” Raggio said.

Some of the hospital staff’s effort was evident Tuesday morning as staffers wearing scrubs loaded up their vehicles with basic medical supplies and shuttled them over to the new site.

A large moving van and a small fleet of AMR ambulances helped transport larger, or more delicate pieces of equipment.

“We’re absolutely 100 percent staffed over here, and absolutely 100 percent staffed over there,” White said, giving praise to the hard work of the medical center staff as he continued to make calls and smooth out what he called the “controlled chaos” happening at both sites.

White stopped by a lab door in the old hospital, and walked inside where a man was busy labeling and packing blood packs.

“For years, and years, and years, this lab had 24-hour activity, three shifts a day ... this place will be empty tonight,” White said.

Many sections of the hospital have been quiet for some time. Raggio said that all nonclinical departments, including the hospital administrative staff, moved over to the new location in May. He said that whenever possible, clinical supplies and staff were relocated to the new facility over the last few weeks, until, as of Tuesday, the new facility would be fully stocked and operational, awaiting only the patients.

“We’re using it as an evacuation drill, getting all our patients out of the old hospital,” White said.

 As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, the old hospital had 14 admitted patients, three of them in ICU. All new patients were routed to the new location as soon as they could physically be moved. By 8:05 a.m., White received news that all the intensive care patients had successfully been moved by ambulance to the new hospital.

The remaining patients were to be discharged home, or transferred to the new hospital by the end of the day according to hospital staff.

 One young patient said she was ready to go home, although she wouldn’t be going alone. Yesenia Kratwell, 23, was the last woman to give birth at the old hospital site. The Lompoc resident gave birth on Sunday to a 6-pound-5-ounce girl, Jayleen Jaydenn Cordova.

“We’re doing pretty well, ready to leave,” Kratwell said as she prepared to be discharged.

“I actually wanted to have her in the new hospital, but there was no way she was waiting another day,” said Kratwell, holding her daughter.

Labor had come on swiftly Saturday night, and had only taken eight hours, according to Kratwell. She said it was “a little scary” delivering in a hospital where the staff was in the midst of moving.

“But they were there when I needed them,” Kratwell said, smiling.

With the last customers in the maternity ward packing up to go home, the rest of the department was preparing to shut off the lights and go over to the new facility, with the other hospital departments eventually following suite.

There are no immediate plans for the old hospital, which was first built in 1942, and expanded upon several times over the years. According to Raggio, it will be used for storage, and will continue temporarily to house a portion of the hospital district’s computer server hardware.

For now, visitors to the old site will be greeted only with signs on every door with a map to the new hospital, and big red letters that read “This Hospital is Closed.”

The new medical center instead has three words placed on its main entrance facade: Compassion, caring and community.

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