Fast-tracking Timelines for Organizations That Can’t Stop: Construction in the Healthcare Sector

A restaurant or clothing retailer might have the flexibility to shut down during an expansion or renovation. However, for the healthcare sector, hitting the pause button simply isn’t an option. The public need for emergency, critical and routine care is 24/7, 365 days a year. So when new construction is set to begin, the construction team must take proactive and considered steps to ensure that a hospital, healthcare practice or urgent care center remains fully operational.

To do this effectively and with minimal impact to patient care, both the construction firm and healthcare administrators must develop a plan of action that incorporates many factors.

Plan around the rush

For some hospitals, patient traffic remains fairly steady throughout the year. For others, such as Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital located in a tourist destination, the need for emergency services spikes during the summer months. In cases like this, it’s ideal for the construction firm to develop aggressive, compressed schedules that are designed to have everything wrapped up before the busy period sets in. Otherwise, demolition, excavation, building and delivery of materials become harder to manage.

Expect the unexpected

Every construction project has its curve balls and fire drills—but especially when it comes to structural upgrades. Often, construction crews don’t know “what they’re dealing with” until they’ve broken through a wall and see what’s hiding beneath—from rotten wood, to an old electrical system that is no longer up to code, to exterior walls that lack insulation. To develop schedules they can stick to, the construction team must factor in the unexpected – be flexible and ready to respond quickly when they encounter a worst-case scenario.

Avoid roadblocks to care

Hospital parking lots are extremely busy and hectic, especially with ambulances rushing in and out to deliver and pick-up patients. The accessibility of emergency vehicles is priority one, so it’s imperative that construction trucks, bulldozers, and excavation vehicles don’t get in the way. To avoid bottlenecks, often construction firms designate a separate parking and delivery area for the crew and subcontractors.

Ensure patient flow and well-being

When patients need care—especially emergency care—there is no room for delay. If construction occurs close to vital healthcare facilities, such as an Emergency Center, it’s critical to design walkways that help steer patient traffic in the right direction. The construction team must also take steps to protect patients from fumes from machinery; minimize noise levels (which can be disruptive to patients in triage); and section off hard-hat areas to keep patients safe.

Communicate, Coordinate, Solve

When the unexpected happens, it’s critical for superintendents, project leaders, crew and subcontractors to remain in constant communication, so that everyone on the team has the same information and can solve problems faster. This is more likely to happen when a construction firm works with an established, experienced team of mechanical and plumbing engineers, versus hiring subcontractors outside of their circle.

Ultimately, the success of healthcare construction—whether it’s a new triage area for a hospital or an urgent care center—begins with a firm that understands the goals of healthcare administrators, how to work efficiently in a sensitive, patient-focused environment, and how to meet aggressive timelines without interrupting everyday operations.

 Check out the recent article in the Cape Cod Times regarding 2 new Urgent Care facilities scheduled to open in May, 2016, where Dellbrook | JK Scanlan is serving as the construction manager: