By Heidi Schwartz
Published in the January 2010 issue of Today’s Facility Manager
On Saturday, June 7, 2008, Columbus Regional Hospital (CRH) experienced a disaster on a scale that few other hospitals have survived. A flood of historic magnitude—an event with a .2% likelihood—slammed the facility, forcing it to close its doors for the first time in 90 years.
The hospital was the largest single entity damaged in the worst natural disaster in Indiana’s history. The flooding resulted in nearly $180 million in damages. Massive cleanup and restoration were the hospital’s immediate future.
This “unplanned” project required quick thinking and a focused effort to protect space and rescue resources not directly affected by flood waters, stabilize the building environment, and begin clean up and demolition of water logged spaces in multiple buildings. This required coordination and interaction with stakeholders from all levels of government—federal, state, and local—insurance carriers, community leaders, the hospital board, and others for safety, inspection, and documentation of losses. CRH’s Director of Facilities and Materials Management David Lenart headed up this massive project and has been named TFM’s 2010 Facility Executive of the Year (FEY) for his outstanding accomplishments.
A Head For Healthcare
After graduating in 1992 with a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University, Lenart says, “I had one of two options: either go to to steel mills or work at a hospital as an engineer. I took the cleaner of the two environments,” which is where he has been ever since. “I’m not good with blood, but I’m good with oil,” Lenart jokes. “This is my way of helping in a healing environment. While I could probably work as a facility manager (fm) in another industry, it’s not where I’ll experience the same kind of rewards.”
A self proclaimed “servant/leader” personality, Lenart’s empathetic management style enables him to put himself in the place of those who have to undertake a project. Not only in charge of facilities, he also heads up environmental services, clinical engineering, materials management, purchasing, laundry, and food services. The project demands are fast and furious.
Lenart’s strategy is one of initial support, then trust and delegation. “When venturing into new waters, I bring the people who are going to be asked to go out in those waters along with me. Together, we figure out what kind of boat we’re going to build. In the end, there’s a common understanding and reasonable results,” he explains.
This philosophy was put to the test when Lenart faced the complex needs created by the 2008 floods. In response to the damage, he proposed and employed numerous innovative concepts to protect the hospital from losses of the same magnitude if a future flood should occur.
This meant a massive redesign of the existing space and inventive use of available space in the interim to house many functions that had been displaced by flood waters. Lenart quickly converted undamaged hospital properties for immediate use as a command center and temporary dining space. He deployed tents to provide protection from the weather and support uninterrupted recovery work. Lenart also located empty hangar space at a local airport and secured it for storage and clean up of salvageable equipment.
In addition, he purchased a wire stripper to salvage copper and other recyclable metals. Monies accrued from this process exceeded $500,000 and were redistributed to the general hospital fund to offset losses.
Knowing the pneumatic tube system could not be restored in time to meet the re-opening, he created a “human” tube system and deployed leadership from his department to fill the crucial operational void the absence of the pneumatic tube system created.
Lenart located and purchased a portable flood retention wall so there would be no repeat occurrence until a permanent solution was in place. All of these steps supported the hospital’s goal of achieving a quicker re-opening date to minimize operating income losses.
Judge Maria Vickers remarks, “Everything about the response to the flood screams innovation—renting an empty hangar for storage, salvaging materials to recoup some losses (and save landfill space), finding a portable flood retention wall (who knew such a thing existed?); these measures contributed to the success of the project.”
Initial estimates projected a 12 to 15 month time frame to rebuild CRH; Lenart was able to get the facility re-opened in less than six. He explains, “This is the only hospital for the entire county, and our customer base is a 10 county region. I knew I had to get the building up and running for the people who need CRH at any critical moment of their lives.”
The hospital’s CEO Jim Bickel says, “Lenart quickly assembled the necessary resources to re-open our facility in the shortest amount of time. He worked closely with the executive team to lay out the critical path not only to restore our facility but also to minimize further impact to areas of the facility not directly impacted by the flood. He was exceptional in leading all aspects of the facility restoration including architectural/design, engineering, materials management, and environmental safety.”
Of his leadership, Lenart says, “Many of our board members couldn’t believe fms needed to know so much, particularly in terms of things like infection control, humidity levels, mold, and other agents that had been introduced into our environment. The decisions necessary for driving the critical path of the recovery effort was placed in my hands. From day one, the CEO said, ‘Dave, you know the critical path. You execute the critical path.’ After a couple of meetings, the board agreed. There were no questions after that. Having the freedom to work on multiple paths allowed us to get more done in a shorter period of time.”
Lenart held vendors and contractors to quicker completion dates and “outside the box” approaches. Knowing how critical it was to the community to restore services, “Lenart developed an aggressive schedule to get the hospital back on line quickly without compromising quality,” states Judge James Driessen.
Bottom Line Considerations
Even though immediate needs were the driving focus of the restoration, Lenart advocated for the new equipment purchased for building support and operations. Each low voltage system was assigned a dedicated cable color to aid in tracing and resolving future issues “above the ceiling” in a more timely manner. All HVAC and building support systems had LON protocol controllers to support interoperability. Modules were installed on all voltage inputs so connection to a future energy monitoring system would allow load shedding and a better ability to monitor the carbon footprint of the hospital campus. Sub-metering stations allowed the hospital to monitor demands and provide trend analysis to aid in decision making for energy conservation and load shedding.
Lenart’s decision to incorporate energy management was driven by a very real fact: revenue reimbursement has declined while energy costs had increased. Conservation was inevitable.
Judge Tom Condon remarks, “Despite being faced with a disaster that would be more than challenging for most fms, Lenart made important moves toward increasing energy efficiency. He displayed amazing foresight, creativity, and an in-depth understanding of his facility, his stakeholders, and the long-term mission of the hospital.”
Lenart feels strongly that, “fms can’t just accept energy bills as something they can live with. If they look at demand charges and determine how to control costs, they can demonstrate real value to the organization. Being ahead of the curve is how I can function in a way that proactively demonstrates facility management’s value to the organization. Reactionary responses put fms too far behind to foster change.”
In the midst of all of his challenges, Lenart engaged representatives of the support departments to review recycling practices and green cleaning methodologies. As a result of these efforts, the team is reinstating the recycling program mindful of incorporating improvements and expanded elements gleaned in this investigative trip to broaden the scope of pre-flood processes.
With regard to sustainability, Lenart admits, “it’s a question of whether or not fms are good stewards of the resources at their disposal. By instituting certain efforts—like recycling or energy conservation programs—fms can demonstrate this willingness to preserve resources.”
While wearing his engineering cap, Lenart looked for opportunities to improve operations. All new critical equipment was relocated to the first floor to aid in future reliability and sustainability. And the destruction of most existing equipment (with the exception of three chillers and two boilers) prompted Lenart to select more efficient replacements. Any motor above five horsepower was retrofitted with variable frequency drives for long-term lower energy usage.
“In a rebuild situation like this,” notes Judge Neal Angrisano, “it would have been all too easy to restore the facility with the same systems it previously had. Lenart used the opportunity to pursue higher efficiency systems and materials.”
Safety was always foremost in Lenart’s actions. In the early days after the flood, he quickly established temporary power for portable lighting, built walkways, and erected perimeter fencing and signage for traffic.
The hospital was committed to keeping its workforce intact and on payroll while closed—a significant financial commitment and a critical element to the urgent need to re-open as quickly as possible. Many employees were engaged in the removal and clean up of equipment and furniture. There were no significant injuries from the demanding work performed.
Judge Angela Nahikian is impressed by Lenart’s “outstanding safety results, considering the scale of the effort and lack of established standards for this type of incident. Restoring pre-flood, high national satisfaction scores so quickly after move-in supports high productivity and performance.”
Much of this success simply came down to the talents of TFM’s 2010 Facility Executive of the Year. Lenart’s knowledge of CRH, combined with his demeanor, leadership, presence, collaborative style, and overall dedication made it possible to meet an aggressive timeline for a re-opening that was vital to the survival of the hospital and its community.
This article was based on the nominee’s entry, submitted by Chris Raaf, VP of professional and support services, Columbus Regional Hospital. It was supplemented by interviews with Lenart.
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