Darnall Medical Center

The new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Centers' courtyard at Fort Hood.

The new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center — located across the street from the old building — officially opened its doors to new patients Sunday with the hospital’s first in-patient day.

“When we moved into the new building, we got a lot of new equipment to go with the additional space,” hospital commander Col. Mark Thompson said. “We have about 70 percent new stuff in this building, and the only reason we don’t have more is because many pieces of equipment were practically new when we left the old building.”

Departments have been moving from the old building across the street for the past two weeks.

Lt. Col. Paul Dickinson was in charge of the in-patient move Sunday and said he was pleased with how smoothly everything went.

“You are not really a hospital until you have patients actually in the building, so today we offically became a hospital,” Dickinson said. “Today was a culmination of months of hard work, with about 30 patients coming over this morning.”

Thompson said he has personally heard several positive comments from patients about how the new building looks.

“We have already had a lot of patient comments about how pretty the new building is and how it looks,” he said. “We are fully operational right now, with two operating rooms up and running, and we will ramp that up to six operating rooms in the next two weeks.”

The six-story, 947,000 square foot hospital has been in the works for several years and staff and patients alike said they are happy to see it welcome its first patients.

One area of the hospital that received major upgrades from the last building is the pharmacy, which is now located on the main floor just a short walk from the main entrance.

“The new pharmacy is about twice as big as the one in the old building, so we should be able to help people quite a bit faster,” pharmacy head Maj. Lyle Kolnick said. “This pharmacy also has 13 windows as opposed to 10, so wait times should be reduced as well.”

Darnall public affairs officer Mikaela Cade said roughly 80 pregnant women were estimated to be in the timeframe for first potential birth at the new hospital. Several births still took place at the old building, but only one so far has occurred at the new building.

“The first birth to take place in this facility occurred at 8 a.m. (Sunday) morning,” Thompson said.

The building is roughly 60 percent larger than the old hospital, allowing staff to assist patients more easily, as well as allowing them to see more patients at a time, Thompson said.

Lt. Col. Brian Hall, Emergency Department chief, was happy to have the additional space.

“With all of our equipment, depending on how many patients we had, the old building could sometimes become a bit cramped,” he said. “The new ED is much more spacious and open. We are able to see and help a lot more people.”

The emergency department at the old building had 26 beds for patients, while the new building has 58 beds and an additional six available for triage.

With the additional space available, Hall is hoping to be able to get a few more staff members for the department eventually.

The hospital as a whole is also receiving a larger staff. Thompson said the hospital still has 30 more nurses to bring in over the next few weeks and get them trained in the new hospital.

“Our capability to take care of sicker and more in-need patients has expanded, and that’s good,” Thompson said. “Just having all this additional space is wonderful. The space itself is designed to make things better and help our patients.”

Contact Artie Phillips at artie@kdhnews.com.

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