Does it ever seem like you spend every weekend maintaining your home? If
something breaks or malfunctions, are you ever tempted to put off that
repair job for a week or two? It’s not like someone’s life
depends on it, right?
Imagine what it’s like maintaining over 1.25 million square-feet
where people’s lives depend on your skill, dedication and efficiency.
That’s business as usual for the Facilities team at Southeast Georgia
Health System. “There’s so much involved with our jobs. People
don’t realize what goes into keeping up a big building like this.
Some days, we’re like firemen, putting out fires, metaphorically
speaking. Other days, it’s slow, but steady,” says Facilities
Manager John Cragin. In addition to the hospital, the team is also responsible
for the upkeep and maintenance of the Health System’s Senior Care
Centers, Immediate Care Centers, physicians’ offices and multiple
Jack of All Trades
On any given day, the crew might be asked to fix an electrical or plumbing
issue as well as other general maintenance duties. “We multitask
every day. That’s what I like about the job,” says Engineering
Technician Jerry Strickland. The work requires patience, persistence and
problem solving. “We can’t always call in an expert. Especially
during this pandemic, they’re not always available to answer questions.
We have to figure it out ourselves. We’re jacks of all trades,”
When the coronavirus hit, the team worked long hours to fulfill spur-of-the-moment
needs. Early on, due to the global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment
(PPE), the Facilities team designed and constructed areas to safely disinfect
N-95 masks for reuse.
The mask disinfection system required ingenuity. Cragin, along with his
team leaders Paul Spaulding and Scott Mills, sketched out ideas and created
a prototype following the CDC guidelines.
Grabbing the Reins
Patients with COVID-19 required isolation, so the Facilities team stepped
up again. “We built walls, added doors, removed windows, and installed
HEPA filters to vent the air outdoors, based on infection prevention guidelines,”
Cragin explains. Between the two hospital campuses and Senior Care Centers,
over 100 COVID-19 patient rooms were reconfigured.
When a late afternoon need arose at the Senior Care Center-St. Marys to
install infection prevention barriers to protect the health of the residents,
Strickland and his co-worker Michael Dart drove 40 miles to assist their
colleagues from the Camden Campus. “They’re hard working and
dedicated team members. They volunteered to help, never complaining,”
Cragin says. As Strickland explains, “If a request came in at 3
p.m., whoever was there grabbed the reins and went for it.” When
the government stay-at-home orders ended, the team helped the physicians’
offices as they reopened.
That’s not to say the men weren’t concerned for their own safety.
“I have a wife and grandchild. I was nervous in the beginning, then
I realized that the hospital is the safest place. Our leadership and physicians
had implemented measures to ensure our safety. My military background
kicked in and I tackled the task before me,” Strickland says. Like
Cragin, he credits the entire Health System for the hospital’s rapid
response to the crisis. “Environmental Services did a great job
cleaning and the nurses made sure we had the right PPE to go onto the
COVID floors,” Strickland says.
Although they work behind the scenes, the Facilities Management team believe
that other departments see them as essential to hospital operations. Doctors,
nurses and other health care providers cannot do their jobs without Facilities
doing theirs. In order to complete all the requests submitted, they cover
for each other if someone is sick or injured. “Even when we were
shorthanded the team pulled together, changed schedules and covered for
the guys who needed to be off,” describes Cragin.
Through all the hurdles and hassles caused by the coronavirus, Cragin and
Strickland felt supported. “The Health System cares about their
team members and it shows,” Cragin says. For example, when the isolation
rooms were built, hospital leaders included dedicated break areas for
the doctors and nurses caring for COVID patients.
Coordinating staff with an ever-changing “To Do” list is manageable
for Cragin, thanks to teamwork. “I know my guys have my back. Working
as a team, you become like family. There’s not a soul in the Facilities
department that didn’t play a part in helping the Health System
prepare for the COVID-19 crisis.”
To support your community hospital during this difficult time, call Southeast
Georgia Health System Foundation at 912-466-3360.