Monday was moving day for the patients and staff of Pinckneyville hospital. As nine patients were pushed out of the hospital on stretchers and wheelchairs, the sound of the door closing behind them was the end of an era that lasted 50 years.
Patients and nurses had been counting down the days.
"I'm really excited; it's almost like Christmas around here," said Patrick Braun, a registered nurse at Pinckneyville Community Hospital. "We've all been waiting for this day for quite some time and hoping it would actually happen."
After a 13-year wait, their move marked the official opening of the $26 million Pinckneyville Community Hospital, just east of town off Illinois 54.
In a steady march, cars began filling the hospital’s parking lot, ambulances arrived on the east entrance and a helicopter flew in to test out the helipad.
And Randall Dauby, the hospital’s newly appointed CEO, got comfortable in his new office.
“This is an exciting day for me and our employees and this whole community. I mean this doesn’t happen all the time,” said Dauby, who was previously the CEO at Hamilton Memorial Hospital, in McLeansboro.
Talks of building the new facility began in 2003. Construction began in 2013.
“When you walked in the old building, it was drab and everyone could kind of see it wasn’t in a good situation. It wasn’t pretty,” Dauby said.
Many say the hospital on Walnut Street was, by any measure, falling apart.
“It was just a matter of time before something majorly failed,” said Tom Hudgins, who retired from his role as the hospital’s CEO in July and oversaw the move. "All the major infrastructure, from the electrical to the heating and cooling and plumbing was old and not up to code.”
Braun, who has worked at his hometown's hospital for eight years, said he faced challenges with providing high-quality care for patients every day.
"All they had was a curtain to separate patients, and that's just not enough. Plus, the walls are dark and everything about it is from the 1970s," Braun said. "It was so noisy during the day and during the night, because we had to move things inside and out all the time. That’s not ideal for people trying to get well.”
Over the past five years, as funding scares popped up, Braun and other staff worried about their patients, and their own jobs.
“They were either going to completely close the hospital or find a way to pay for a new one, so we were always stressed about keeping our jobs,” he said. “It was such a relief when they broke ground. It’s been something to look forward to.”
The change in address comes with a one-floor layout that offers smoother access to primary care, clinics and service. With the hospital's focus on outpatient care, it has 17 private bedrooms, and a larger trauma area. The hospital grounds also have a helipad to help rush patients to and from the hospital for trauma treatment.
“When you walk in, it’s an open and inviting wide hallway and I think people will feel safe here,” Dauby said. “From the technology to the appeal of it, it’s a completely new level than what this community is used to.”
Braun agrees, saying from the first time he walked in the new hospital, he was ready to leave the less-than-flashy facility on Walnut Street behind.
"It's just so beautiful in there and it's clean and there's everything we need for our patients," Braun said. "It's going to be so much better to come to work, even if I have to get used to a different drive in the morning."