The design and construction of healthcare facilities are complex undertakings. They incorporate advanced technology and innovation into the careful balance of the functional needs of the operation, and the comfort and convenience of patients and visitors. Healthcare facilities must be functional, efficient, and easy to navigate, and they should also be welcoming and calming to reduce stress and anxiety for patients, but, above all, they must provide health and safety. To guarantee this, healthcare construction meets strict regulations and standards to ensure the safety and well-being of patients and staff.
Health care construction is a very specialized industry and there are not too many contractors with the qualifications to serve in the industry. According to Amber Lawhorn, Director of Supplier Diversity and Small Business Enterprise Program at Jackson Health, “the biggest challenge that owners face in healthcare construction is contractor expertise. There are a lot of people who want to work for a healthcare organization, but it is a very regulated industry. Contractors believe that their experience in schools and other structures can transfer to hospitals, but it is a very different thing.”
EPIC has the privilege to be working with Jackson Health System, one of the nation’s largest public health systems, for the past 6 years. In 2013, JHS launched its capital plan that included new construction projects, the renovation of all existing facilities, technology upgrades, cutting-edge equipment, and infrastructure improvements. This “Jackson Miracle-Building Bond Program” came to transform Jackson into a modernized, patient-centered healthcare system that can better meet the future needs of Miami-Dade County residents and patients from around the world who travel to Jackson because of its medical expertise.
EPIC started as a subcontractor working under Turner Construction and later became a prime in several projects at Jackson South and Jackson Memorial Hospital. Through the years, EPIC was contracted to perform interior/exterior metal framing, drywall, wall insulation, stucco and EFS systems, modernization, and renovation. Projects involved erection and maintenance of ICRA walls, careful training and supervision of all workers and superior scheduling, planning and coordination. “There must be flawless communication and coordination between all parties”, says David Moran from EPIC Consultants. “It is not easy for the construction management team to coordinate the requirements of the projects with the complex demands of the operations of both the owner and its tenants.” EPIC understands this well and relies on its lean construction expertise to provide the planning, flexibility, and coordination necessary.
During the development of the new Jackson West Medical Center, a state-of-the-art campus in the City of Doral, under the construction management of Yates Construction, EPIC took growing significance throughout the project. Amber mentioned that “EPIC was so heavily involved, it became a situation where EPIC was carrying project knowledge, and that was vital when there was turnover in the construction team or Jackson’s staff. EPIC helped guarantee project continuity and maintained consistent job performance despite all changes taking place.” It was indeed a major project, faced with many changes and uncertainties, and a pandemic was added to the mix.
Projects of this magnitude add another layer of opportunity and responsibility: large teams. You must know how to work collaboratively with other stakeholders and problem-solve in the face of inevitable adversities. “We hadn’t opened a new hospital in 100 years”, said Jorge Garciga, Director of Facilities Design and Construction at Jackson Health System, “this was a brand-new undertaking for everyone, and it required great collaboration. I thank EPIC for working together with us and the contractor Yates in the Lean meetings. The pull-plan meetings with all the trade partners really helped the team come together. It was a learning curve, but it facilitated the scheduling and collaboration a lot.” Furthermore, “EPIC was always willing to collaborate with the other trade partners to find solutions to the issues that we came across on site. It was a difficult project, so I’m thankful to EPIC for their willingness to work together, to look at the big picture and help us get this project opened to serve our community.”
With all the complexities involved, owners must, above all, count on the commitment and responsibility of contractors. When asked what sets EPIC apart, Jorge says, “I can pick up the phone and call David. I can go directly to the owner and talk about any issues we may have or any growth opportunities, and they have always been there to listen to us. You guys are really looking after our needs and really trying to work with us.” “In a lot of small businesses,” Amber adds, “the owner is doing the work themselves, so they don’t have time to build relationships and problem solve with the customer. EPIC has the great advantage of offering a business development team to support the technical team in the field and provide the customer with immediate attention and resolution when issues arise.”
The design and construction of healthcare facilities are indeed complex undertakings which we can only attempt to touch upon in one article. EPIC’s expertise in Lean Construction and commitment to working in a partnership translate to a differentiated ability to manage challenges, identify creative solutions, and deliver results. Yet, guaranteeing the facilities are constantly up to date, while securing a safe space where patients and their loved ones can receive the care they need, requires another level of expertise and sensibility from owners and contractors alike. “With lives at stake, we must make sure they are safe and protected while work is being done”, said David. But that, we will unfold on a future article covering the challenges in projects involving repair, renovation, and alteration of occupied medical facilities.