Health Care Construction Requires Compassion, Attention to Detail and Flexibility

Contractors that understand why they are building for the health care industry is essential. The passion behind this line of work is unlike building for any other market segment.
By Coker Barton
April 17, 2019

When it comes to renovating and expanding hospitals, there is one principle that everyone can agree on: patients, family and hospital staff must be placed at the forefront of every stage of the job, ultimately dictating the project’s timeline. For a health care project to be a success, a general contractor needs to have industry-specific experience, must emphasize communication and scheduling and—most importantly—have a passion for the industry.

Capably and safely work in a health care environment

Health care requires a level of detail and understanding of the industry that is not found in other construction sectors. Builders must focus on infection control and interim life safety measures to protect patients, visitors and staff. There is accountability involved that goes beyond completing a project right on schedule.

For example, the expansion of The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart in Pensacola, Fla., included a new 175,000-square-foot tower in addition to building out space above the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Anytime the contractor is building next to or over patients, especially those who are most vulnerable, it is on alert. It sets up containment areas, which help maintain the negative pressure in the construction area by pulling air in versus blowing dirty air out, as well as keep dust and other contaminants inside the construction area. There is no room for mistakes, which is why these techniques require more training and experience to properly execute.

Work at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, Texas, is happening in 26 phases across 26 months in an active hospital. Infection control risk assessment training started as a requirement for all Hoar Construction team members and a representative from each trade. However, the team quickly realized the importance of safety and discretion while working in the hospital and changed the requirement to include anyone working onsite.

The Shannon team also shares the jobsite with AirMed1, an active helicopter service. This presents unique safety challenges and compounds otherwise ordinary activities—even trash disposal. The dumpster was adjacent to the helipad, and the team developed a custom lid to prevent debris and materials from being displaced by winds created by the helicopter.

Communication is Critical on the Jobsite

One of Hoar Construction’s regional superintendents always says, “Remember, this is a hospital under construction and not a construction site that just happens to be a hospital.” The construction team has to understand that their job is to do their work without interfering with those who are there to treat patients and those who are there to be treated. Scheduling must be done around how the hospital regularly operates and consider operation and emergency rooms are open at all hours of the day, seven days a week, serving patients in need of immediate care. This means occasionally working at odd hours to respect the role of the hospital.

When working on a hospital project in Kentucky, Hoar Construction had to shut down the utilities 33 times to make tie-ins. People in the hospital depend on power and water; executing that many shutdowns without any mistakes was the difference between life and death for some of those patients.

Compassion Drives the Final Product

Contractors that understand why they are building for the health care industry are essential. The passion behind this line of work is unlike building for any other market segment. Hoar Construction’s work at Children’s of Alabama has spanned 10 years. During that time, the team has been able to show its compassionate side in a multitude of ways: superhero window washers, putting up decorations inside and outside at Christmas and even being part of the annual Halloween trick or treating.

Compassionate health care builders see firsthand the impact their work has on people’s lives; the projects they build allow clients to deliver better care. Contractors often find they are constructing a building they hope people never have to use; however, the better it is built the better the caregivers, doctors and nurses can execute their jobs and heal people. It is extremely rewarding to build for hospitals. When the individuals on the team are passionate about their work, the results as a team are fulfilling.

by Coker Barton
As National Healthcare Director, Coker is responsible for long-term strategic planning for the healthcare division including assessing and developing new markets, coordinating regional efforts, and enhancing relationships with healthcare clients. He has been in the healthcare industry for more than 25 years, allowing him to act on his client-centered approach and understanding of the healthcare industry allows him to assist clients in achieving reasonable solutions for their business objectives.

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