Question: About how many cots and air mattresses were needed to accommodate employees staying overnight at our Main campus during the recent papal visit?

Answer: 950

When Pope Francis came to Philadelphia in late September, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was ready — thanks to months of preparation and planning.

It was an historic event that drew massive crowds from around the globe to the Independence Mall and Ben Franklin Parkway areas. But for hundreds of CHOP employees, it meant a three-day sleepover at the office.

CHOP was located within the “Francis Festival grounds,” also referred to as the Green Zone, which stretched from South Street to Girard Avenue and from the Delaware River to 38th Street. Travel in and around the Green Zone was limited to pedestrian traffic only from Thursday, Sept. 24, through Sunday, Sept. 27.

And travel challenges extended well beyond the Green Zone, with public transportation services throughout the region severely restricted and at times unavailable to commuters and many bridges, roads and highways congested or closed, causing major delays.

All of this tight security and crowd control meant travel was severely limited for CHOP staff and patient families in need of care.

CHOP began preparing more than six months in advance to make sure enough staff would be on hand to take care of its typical patient volume as well as sick young tourists. Hospital leaders established a World Meeting of Families Taskforce consisting of key department and clinical leaders to ensure a high state of readiness and response capability.

Outpatient appointments and elective surgeries that would typically have taken place on the Main Campus on Friday through Monday morning were rescheduled or relocated to CHOP Care Network locations.

CHOP leaders worked with the City’s Office of Emergency Management to devise a plan that would allow patient access to the Hospital despite road closures. They also participated in a regional healthcare exercise to prepare for a potential patient surge should a mass trauma have occurred during the event.

Limited visitation was even in effect from Thursday through Monday, but staffing was increased in the Emergency Department, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and operating rooms. Extra food, linens and medical supplies were ordered and on campus at the ready.

Approximately 1,700 critical staff members were unable to commute during the highest congestion times. Some of these staff members were put up in hotels or stayed with friends who live near the Hospital. Nearly 950 cots and air mattresses with linens and pillows were set up at designated sleep spaces in the Wood Center and Buerger Center for Advanced Pediatric Care, with overflow and downtime space in the Colket Translational Research Building.

CHOP offered an array of complimentary services to make staff’s home away from home for 72 hours as comfortable and fun as possible. An arrival reception on Friday greeted staff with finger foods and refreshments. Meal vouchers were usable at all of CHOP’s cafeterias as well as Einstein Bros Bagels, which recently opened on the first floor of the Buerger Center. For the downtime between 12-hour shifts, the Hospital showed movies, offered yoga sessions and held barbecues. Portable shower trailers were set up in the Buerger Center loading dock.

“It took a village of staff and a slew of people representing clinical, support and administrative areas,” says Chad Hough, interim COO and senior vice president of Clinical Support Services. “I’m proud of how everyone pulled together and continued to provide the exceptional care our patients expect.”