TRURO - The wait is over.
The Colchester East Hants Health Centre opened to cheerful staff and patients early Sunday morning. The facility on Abenaki Road in Truro was a busy spot throughout the day as 91 patients were transferred from the old Colchester Regional Hospital on Willow Street, beginning shortly after 9 a.m., to the new site. Accompanying the historic moment was the season's first snowfall.
Staff members and volunteers awaited the new arrivals, a few dancing in the foyer and others saying they were "bouncing off the walls" with excitement.
North River's Diane Chapman, who works in the chemotherapy department, also acted as a volunteer porter. Porters met incoming patients and helped take them to their new room.
"It was overwhelming for us at first so it's good to meet the patients (personally) because otherwise it could be terrifying for them," said Chapman. "It's just having the security in the unknown ... we want it to be a happy and safe experience."
One patient who was thrilled to be part of the move was Shortts Lake's Desiree Mason, who was the first patient transferred from the old site.
"This is great ... and the staff is awesome," said Mason.
Also pleased with how smoothly the day went was Dwayne Semple of Tatamagouche. The regional manager of EHS said things were "well under control and going as expected."
In fact, the move was ahead of schedule on Sunday. It was anticipated it would take until 4 p.m. to transfer all the patients, however, by 1:30 p.m. all patients were moved. In the first hour alone, 20 people were moved from the old to the new site. And by noon, 60 patients were relocated. Semple said 25 EHS personnel from throughout the province were on hand to help.
There were also an estimated 40 volunteers helping in various capacities, including on the information desk, greeting, patient support, operating the coffee shop and spiritual care.
Most of the hospital's operations were active on Sunday. The emergency room was open at 7 a.m. and according to the health authority's spokeswoman, Krista Wood, there were four vehicles "already here when the doors opened." The old hospital's ER remained open until 7 a.m.
Two operating rooms were also open at the new site early Sunday morning and some X-ray staff were on call.
Most clinics will be open today and blood collection will resume on Wednesday.
About 800 staff, including physicians, will be situated at the new hospital, confirmed Wood.
For Truro's Rose Atkinson, who is in the dietary department, the move was emotional.
While she's excited to have the new facility because "it was time for a change and the old site was worn down" it was also a time to leave behind old memories.
"It's like going to a new house. There are no memories in it but you are making new memories. It was sad on Saturday when we took pictures at the old site, but change is good too," said Atkinson.
The new hospital was first announced in 2003 and ultimately cost $184 million, which included the MRI service.