By Mrs Tawny M Dotson (Army Medicine)February 21, 2012
On Feb. 28, 1992 a dedication ceremony was held in the Medical Mall at Madigan Army Medical Center where more than 400 people watched congressman and generals dedicate the new, $280 million structure we now operate in known as Madigan.
For the next few weeks, staff members worked tirelessly to transition equipment and finally on Mar. 21, 1992, the hospital was considered officially operational when patients were transferred to the new Madigan from the Old Madigan according to The Madigan Mountaineer from March 1992.
"I actually was one of the first staff members to take care of an inpatient [in the new building]," said Jim Brassard who was an active-duty practical nurse at the time. "We had to take the patient over by ambulance as we transferred them to the ER and then took them up to the ICU. There were three patients that we had to escort over that way."
The project to build the state-of-the-art facility was more than 10 years in the making. In fact, it took a lot of work from now famous names such as Congressman Norm Dicks, Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson, and a previous I Corps Commander, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, to assist with making the plan a reality. The original design phase began in September of 1982 and ground breaking occurred Jan. 18, 1985. The initial site package was awarded on Dec. 11, 1984 to Pacific Ventures, from Bellevue, Wash. The main phase of construction did not begin until July of 1986. Outpatients were first seen in the hospital's clinics on Mar. 24, 1992.
"I remember standing and watching the sun rise on the fourth floor and watching our patients come over," said Marion Christiansen. "We were just really proud of this new building. It was an inspiration really to move into the building."
According to a Mountaineer article the facility was built a few degrees off-south so that all inpatient rooms in the hospital tower would have either a view of Mt. Rainier or the Olympic Mountains. This was a break from protocol for building projects which at the time were required to have a southern exposure.
The original Madigan General Hospital, according to a Mountaineer article dated Feb. 27, 1992, was opened on Feb. 22, 1944. That building was described as being built in a hurry and in the end included a 106-building complex spread over 75 acres with more than eight miles of corridors and ramps.
"I do miss the old Madigan sometimes," said Andrea Balzarini, who was the Emergency Department residency coordinator during the move, but had worked previously as a medical support assistant in the ER. "I miss the way of doing business only because it was a little bit more personal. Nowadays it's mostly over the phone and you don't know as many people face-to-face."
The transition from the old building to the new was looked upon fondly by many staff members at Madigan who have remained over the past 20 years. The transition can be described when one thinks of moving from using a typewriter to using a computer…all in one day.
"It took a lot of training to get used to working in the new building," said Brassard.
The addition of the pneumatic tube system, robots to deliver supplies and a hospital that was built vertically rather than horizontally were just a few of the adjustments necessary to work in the new building. The addition of computers and the end of rotary phones were transitions that made the move memorable as technology changed the way most people in the hospital accomplished nearly everything. In order to make the move as smooth as possible, a great deal of preparation went into the process to include a planning office open years before construction began.
"There was a lot of serious planning with everyone this move," said Jim Cole, who served as a project engineer on the new Madigan. "It was quite a professional recognition to have the opportunity to work on this project. It was a once in a lifetime project from an engineer's standpoint."
Now, new Madigan is 20 years old, but the work and effort that has gone into updating, renovating and maintaining the building has brought the building into the 21st Century.
"I think the building is aging very gracefully. When you look at a building that has been occupied for 20 years under medical operations, this building still shows its glory," said Cole.