Critical Issues: Providence Health System

Dec. 29, 2004
At Issue:› Critical Timelines› Minimal Disruption to Patients/Staff› Fluctuating Cost of Construction Materials vs. BudgetsThe critical nature of the healthcare industry extends well beyond its core competency; as important – and as an integral part of the success of this business area – is the optimal design, construction, management, and operation of its facilities. Clearly embracing such a mission of caring and commitment is the not-for-profit Providence Health System, headquartered in Seattle, which operates 17 acute-care hospitals (3,700 acute-care beds, including specialized care centers), as well as long-term care, assisted-living facilities and primary care centers (approximately 1,750 long-term care beds) across a four-state area: Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California. With nearly 33,000 employees, Providence Health System also works closely with its network of physician organizations and sponsors health plans that serve more than 772,000 people.In his role as senior construction manager, Richard (Rick) Staley is responsible for the Portland, OR, service area (three hospitals and 60-plus medical offices and clinics), and assists at other hospitals, as needed, throughout the state of Oregon. His group also communicates throughout the system, including the standardization of practices, policies, procedures, and purchasing. Currently, Providence is doing half a billion dollars in projects in Oregon alone, in which Staley and his team handle multiple projects from the onset, “through all the contracts, architects, engineers, etc. for each. These encompass both new construction and major renovations,” he explains.Among the obvious business issues – budget, government regulations, and personnel – Staley notes, “Critical timelines are extremely important to us; we have a lot of people who rely on us to keep that on track – everything from design and construction to final cleaning and the actual move. We really focus on these timelines, while also ensuring we are creating and completing a quality project.” The advantages of an internal design/construction component are far-reaching, he adds, particularly with respect to understanding the company culture, its needs, and its vision.Maintaining quality is a given; however, says Staley, the fluctuating – and rising – cost of building materials makes the variable nature of project funding a challenge. “In 2004, we [were] hit with steel and concrete escalation costs that drove a lot of other things – not just the physical building. How do you make up for those dollars and still stay on budget? We have [addressed] that through our team value engineering – and have been successful in making a project whole without diminishing its quality, aesthetics, or maintainability. Providing such a level of quality serves both the patient and us as the end-user.”When business-meets-technology upgrades are an essential element in the success of healthcare providers, the 24/7 hospital environment can complicate even the most pristine jobsites. “I tell our contractors that if you can work [construction] in a healthcare setting, you can work anywhere. You’re making noise; you’re making dust – it’s not an enviable place to do huge remodels and renovations,” says Staley, noting yet another advantage of the in-house group understanding the business of healthcare.That includes issues of life safety and security, as well as privacy. “My job is to ensure a safe environment for patients, families, staff, and physicians,” he explains. “When we start, it’s the first requirement of the construction manager’s job to bring that team together – including the contractor and the architect with the end-user, security, physical plant, safety, and infection control department – to discuss the life safety and infection control issues that are unique to a specific project.” Following the correct protocol doesn’t go unnoticed. “When someone from a different department recognizes the effort and comments on it, that is really important to us,” says Staley.That’s a lot to oversee in any setting, but Staley says he loves the challenge. “Everyone ends up in a hospital at some point in their life. I’ve been at Providence for 19 years, and my reward – every day – is to know that we’ve provided an environment for the betterment of people.”Linda K. Monroe, Editorial Director ([email protected])

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