On the 12th of August 2021, Spectrum Health was awarded the Frontline Energy Hero Award at the Michigan Energy Summit. The Facilities and Real Estate team at Spectrum Health was a crucial asset to the hospital system’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. Their nimble and calculated strategy created safe facilities for frontline healthcare workers and their patients.
“It was really about team and commitment,” says Thomas Theoret, Vice President of Facilities and Real Estate, “A lot of the credit goes to our dedicated crews and Leadership’s communication.” When reflecting on the Spectrum Health’s national leadership during the pandemic.
The Spectrum Health facilities team, over 200 employees strong, worked around the clock, maintaining their momentum while adjusting almost daily to new health & safety protocols. In the first 90 days, a critical part of the initial emergency response was to set up tent stations in front of the ER throughout facilities to prepare for the first anticipated surge. The State of Michigan’s quarantine guidelines aided to curb the first surge in West Michigan. In that time, the facilities team was able to prepare space within the hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. As there was a global shortage of PPE, Spectrum Health sent a call for donations to local construction and real estate companies. Michigan Battle of the Buildings thanks everyone who was able to donate supplies. Spectrum Health facilities team helped convert the DeVos Convention Center into a nationally recognized COVID vaccination hub complete with sub zero zero refrigeration units, conex box tunnels, and brave volunteers. In time, Spectrum Health would lead Michigan and the country with establishing robust testing sites with widely accessible features.
As essential workers, the facilities team stayed on the road 90% of their time, tending to a portfolio of 15 hospitals and a total of approximately 12 million square feet. Jim Karas, Facilities Energy Project Manager, was established as the hub to monitor the BAS systems. While the crew was all hands on deck in independent projects, Karas was able to keep a watchful eye on the holistic picture of Spectrum Health facilities operation.
Early in the pandemic, the facility improvement projects were put on pause to attend to COVID response scaling; however, the team quickly learned how to take advantage of the non-patient areas by executing projects while the spaces were vacant. The Spectrum Health facilities department’s strategy was simple: smaller teams on rotating projects. Segregating the trades reduced the team size from an average of 10 down to 3 or 4 persons. These smaller teams kept the crews safer by reducing exposures. With this approach, the number of active projects increased to more than before the pandemic. In total, the facilities team executed 150 projects including refreshing clinics, parking lot LED changeovers, roof replacements, and a power plant replacement.
“Strategic leadership, ingenuity, and shared intelligence were the three most impactful traits that drove such powerful success for Spectrum Health” reflects Bob Robinson, Spectrum Health’s Facilities Engineering Manage. Spectrum Health led the state and the nation in best practices for COVID pandemic response. Many times, the unsung heroes are facilities teams, ensuring the facility is operating reliably so hospital staff can do their work in a safe and dependable building. Michigan Battle of the Buildings thanks all our frontline workers.