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Staff Prepare for Debut of New Mission Bay Hospitals

Helicopter Makes Historic Helipad Test Run in ‘Day in the Life’ Exercise

By Suzanne Leigh

Bear Force One will transport critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women from outlying hospitals to the rooftop helipad, the only operational hospital helipad in San Francisco.

The best day of her life quickly flipped over to become the worst. “Brenda” had just given birth to her son. She had allowed her ex, the baby’s father, to visit, but when her back was turned, he hightailed it out of the postpartum room with the newborn in his arms. Within seconds, code pink was activated, and staff swiftly patrolled the hospital in search of the father. The baby was soon found and reunited with mom. 

"Brenda," played by trainer Angela Delgado, is reunited with her baby in record time.

But there wasn’t time to get comfortable: less than a minute later, Brenda started to hemorrhage and had to be transported to the operating room. Could one woman experience more drama in a single morning? Wait, why was Brenda grinning?

Thankfully this scenario and the hundred-plus others enacted at UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay on Oct. 15 were completely fictitious. The “Day in the Life” event was staged to help staff get ready for the Feb. 1 opening of three hospitals: UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, UCSF Bakar Cancer Hospital and UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital.

With the help of volunteer patients like Brenda, who were mainly UCSF employees, clinicians familiarized themselves with new supply locations, equipment and workspaces. Nurses, physicians, patient care assistants, child life specialists and respiratory therapists tested integrated systems and travel pathways, and red-flagged any hiccups that had the potential to clog up smooth operations.

Meanwhile, Bear Force One, a medical transport helicopter, made its historic landing at the new Medical Center helipad. Bear Force One will transport critically ill newborns, children and pregnant women from outlying hospitals to the rooftop helipad, the only operational hospital helipad in San Francisco. The helicopter is housed at Oakland airport, with a dedicated team of pilots, mechanics and nurses ready to respond at any hour. 

A nurse from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco flies with the helicopter, enabling young patients to receive top-tier care within seconds of landing. During the test run, hospital staff measured the time it took to transport a doll “acting” as a newborn to the neointensive care nursery. 

Cindy Lima, executive director of the UCSF Mission Bay Hospitals Project, and Kimberly Scurr, executive director of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, celebrate a successful first trial run of the new helipad.

“When a child or pregnant woman is critically ill, every moment counts. Being able to bring the patient directly to the hospital and quickly to the clinicians who will care for them is a game changer,” said Kim Scurr, executive director of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

“As we descended toward the first landing on the helipad, I couldn’t help but feel overcome with emotion,” said Cindy Lima, executive director of UCSF Mission Bay hospitals project. “We are so grateful to our neighbors who appreciated the need and supported the approval of San Francisco’s first helipad in decades. Each of those neighbors is a hero in their own right.”

While the “newborn” was rushed from Bear Force One to the pediatric ICU for an emergency CT scan, other dramas were played out with varying degrees of thespian talent throughout the three hospitals. Bone marrow transplant patient “Isabella” had a seizure and was wheeled from the BMT unit to ICU; “Claudia” went into labor; “Mateo” underwent radiation; and the mother of patient became an unexpected new admission when she fell and lost consciousness, prompting a code red.

At the end of the day, staff got a sense of what a day in their new lives will look like on Feb. 1.

“This has been a good opportunity for our staff to learn and resolve issues as they arise through the simulations in order to prepare for a successful opening,” said Pamela Hudson, executive director, clinical systems/Mission Bay transition. “We had 850 participants from all disciplines in the first ‘Day in the Life’ event and we expect a good turnout for our next event.”

For more internal-facing stories from the UCSF community, please visit Pulse of UCSF.

Hospital staff prepare for a full day of more than a hundred staged scenarios to test the new hospitals' systems, staff and equipment.


Staff test out the new phone system to ensure communication channels are ready to go before the first patients arrive in a few months.


Staff whisk a "patient" into the hospital as part of the first trial run of Bear Force One and the helipad.


A nurse readies a "patient" for a scan as part of a test of the equipment and procedures.


Photos by Paul Sakuma