Mary Anne Dobbs knew Trios Southridge Hospital was opening Tuesday morning.
She had heard all about it. But she didn't imagine she would be part of the historic day.
Then an infection sent her to the original Trios hospital on South Auburn Street, and a little more than a day later, she was one of the patients transferred from that former flagship facility in the downtown area to the new Southridge site off Plaza Way -- the first new hospital to open in the Tri-Cities since the early 1950s.
"Everybody is saying that it's exciting -- it's history. People say it all the time, but (this time) it's really true," Dobbs said. "I've been in a lot of hospitals. I'm 85. I've had a lot of experience. And this is just lovely. It feels good when you come in here. You feel like you want to get better."
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The Kennewick woman was settled in her room on the second floor of the new hospital before 11 a.m. Trios Southridge Hospital opened at 7 a.m., with private ambulances transporting patients from the intensive care and medical-surgical units at the Auburn Street site steadily throughout the morning. All 28 of those patients were moved before noon.
The first surgery at the new Kennewick hospital started about 11 a.m. By then, the hospital already had seen its first 911 transports, its first CAT scan and its first patient admitted through the emergency room.
Carla Martin, 61, of Kennewick, got that distinction. She came to the emergency department as a walk-in a little before 7 a.m. She received excellent care, she said, adding that if the new hospital keeps providing that type of service, it will have "a long run" in the community.
The Southridge facility is Trios' main hospital, with in-patient services from the emergency department to surgery and intensive care, and the Auburn Street hospital -- which opened in 1952 -- is a women's and children's hospital with services including a birthing center and pediatrics. The Auburn Street emergency department closed as an emergency room at 7 a.m. Tuesday and reopened at 8:15 a.m. as an urgent care center with primary care and walk-in services.
Trios officials said the transition Tuesday went smoothly on both ends, crediting months of planning, training and preparation.
It was quiet outside the ambulance entrance of the new hospital a little after 7 a.m. But before long, ambulances began to arrive carrying admitted patients from Auburn. The first 911 transport came about 7:45 a.m.
Capt. Eric Nilson, emergency medical services officer for the Kennewick Fire Department, was on hand Tuesday morning to provide support.
The new Southridge hospital is spacious and beautiful, Nilson said, adding that its layout means emergency personnel can easily and quickly access the catheterization labs, where it's best to directly route patients experiencing a specific type of heart attack.
"We go straight in, we go to the third hallway, we turn left and we go straight to the cath lab. It can't get any easier than that," he said.
Inside the new hospital, as the hallways grew steadily busier, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Hawamdeh said it was exciting to be part of opening day.
"You can't get better care and better tools and instruments anywhere than what we have right now," Al-Hawamdeh said. "We're so excited for that, and to serve the community and open this huge facility and grow."
Back when the Auburn Street hospital opened six decades ago, it had about 46 beds and cost $725,000. Patients shared rooms.
At the new 168,000-square-foot Southridge hospital, patients have their own space. The facility features 74 private patient rooms, including 14 in intensive care, plus six operating rooms, catheterization labs and other features from diagnostic imaging to a chapel and restaurant. The emergency department has 27 treatment rooms.
Mary Anne Dobbs reclined in her bed on the second floor of the hospital Tuesday, with a shawl from her granddaughter on her lap and her daughter Catherine Best at her side.
Best, from Pasco, said the transition from Auburn to Southridge went well, with the family given information beforehand about how the process would work.
Dobbs never imagined she would one day play a part in a new hospital's debut, but it has given her a lift, a boost, she said.
"This is really something for this whole community," she said.
-- Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529; email@example.com; Twitter: @saraTCHerald