Remembering when DGMC moved to its current home

  • Published
  • By Merrie Schilter-Lowe
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – When contractors turned over the keys to the David Grant USAF Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base, California Oct. 21, 1988, the medical center officially became Air Force property.  However, it would take another 60 days to make it ready to receive patients.


The new DGMC consolidated 19 buildings scattered around the base – some as far as a mile from the main facility – into one modern complex housing more than 3,500 rooms, according to an article in the base newspaper, Tailwind.


The transition from construction to occupancy required the support of 120 staff members as well as 600 Air Force reservists to set up the furniture and medical equipment totaling $15.5 million.  The move itself was estimated to cost around $600,000.


Such a major move does not happen without a lot of planning.


“Planning is absolutely critical,” said Lt. Col. John Holes in a base newspaper article.  Holes was one of the officers in charge of the move.


“Because of the number of people David Grant serves, the transition has to be smooth,” he said.  “The plan is not to let our level of care drop while the transfer is being made.”   


DGMC’s “most creative and talented people” had been working out moving details since 1985 and had a plan for nearly everything imaginable that could go wrong, said Holes. 


“We have developed many contingency plans and used a computer to ensure calculations were right,” said Holes. 


Moving day went so smooth, Military Airlift Command awarded DGMC its 1988 Innovation Award for its meticulous planning and flawless execution.  The Department of Defense awarded DGMC for establishing a new standard of excellence for design and construction. 


According to Holes, the move would require 340 to 400 trucks to transfer the equipment stored in the base’s warehouse.  Another 100 trucks would haul everything from “scalpels and beds to clocks and a linear accelerator,” used for radiation therapy, said Holes. 


Time and motion studies were conducted to ensure no bottlenecks formed as contractors transferred the new equipment.  Assembly of the new equipment and training staff to operate it took nearly four weeks. 


Historical documents reported that the new state-of-the-art medical center was a far cry from the original Fairfield-Suisun Base Hospital that first opened in 1943.  Originally estimated at $206.2 million, the new DGMC was the Air Force’s first major medical facility built from the ground up.


“Most other Air Force facilities have added to their existing facility,” said Maj. Jodie Sell, DGMC’s director of training and systems coordinator said in a base newspaper article.  “We completely replaced the old center with this this new, more modern facility.”


Moving furniture and equipment was one thing.  Moving 130 patients to another facility in 60 days, was much more delicate, said Sell. 


“Critical patients were brought over first, each in a private ambulance,” he said. “Next was pediatrics on the fourth floor.  From there, the staff worked their way down to the first floor.  To minimize patient and staff inconveniences, our goal was to accomplish the move in a record eight weeks.”


While active duty members moved into the new DGMC, hundreds of Air Force reservists serving their annual tour backfilled their positions in building 381, which patients and the community referred to as “The Hospital on the Hill.” 


Retired military members and civilian volunteers performed basic but, necessary tasks ranging from operating elevators to checking entry authorization, allowing active duty members to handle the physically demanding tasks like moving more than 204 exam tables and cabinets, 7,000 chairs and 657 desks.  


Just as planned, patient movement began early on Dec. 15, 1988, said Sell. 


“The patients ate breakfast at the old building and had lunch at the new one,” he said.  


Because there were no major problems, the move stayed on schedule for the entire two months.  


“We could not have wished for a better Christmas present,” said Sell.