UMC Brackenridge: A look back (and at the giant rock in the basement)

On Sunday morning, Austin will say goodbye to UMC Brackenridge and hello to the state-of-the-art 517,000 square foot Dell Seton Medical Center.

According to Central Health, Edwin Waller set aside a block of land for a public hospital in 1839.  That's where Brackenridge still stands today.

First called the City County Hospital and later Brackenridge after Dr. Robert J. Brackenridge.

Construction on the current facilities started in 1970 and took about 2 decades to fully complete.  Central Health VP for finance and development Juan Garza says that's because the federal government backed out of a deal to cover half the cost so finishing the project took a while.

And that lead to one of the hospital's most unique features that not a lot of people even know about...something called the "rock room."  Literally a giant limestone rock in the basement.

If they had come in sooner and done all the construction in one swoop, they probably would have cut this rock out," Garza said.

Garza says it's hard limestock bedrock.  When the time came to blast it to bits, they ran into a little noise pollution problem.

"They just didn't want to disturb patients anymore because by the time they got to this rock, there were patients in some of the rooms in this hospital," Garza said.

According to the Central Health master plan, the goal is to build a "complete community" in the spot Brackenridge is on now -- that could include medical, housing, retail and more.

"The Rock" will go away.  Garza says the spot will be parking spaces.

"I would hope that we would somehow maybe parcel it out to people as a memento," Garza said.

But obviously the first step is moving into Dell Seton. Starting Sunday morning, hospital staff will use 14 ambulances to transfer 150 to 180 Brackenridge patients over to Dell Seton.

"We're approaching this like a military operation.  We've got a consultant that's been working with us for about a year and a half and this is all they do...hospital moves," Cavin said.

Cavin says they'll start with the sickest patients first.  He's hoping they'll finish by 4 or 5 Sunday afternoon.

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