Delta Regional Medical Center: Paul Dillon, Director of Plant Operations

by HCE Exchange on April 27, 2011

Paul Dillon is the Director of Plant Operations for Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Mississippi. Maintaining a million square feet of hospital and clinical space is no small job.

“In addition to two hospitals, I oversee a large network of clinics. My role as Director is to monitor and maintain anything that has an impact on the environment of care, whether it is security, utility, or hazardous conditions such as fire,” Dillon says. He is Chair of the Environment of Care Committee and Vice Chair of the hospital’s Safety Committee.

Design and Technology Highlights of Expansion

Delta Regional Medical Center just completed a $10 million expansion project that took a little more than two years. A state-of-the-art heart center was added to the campus, including brand new operating rooms that were built exclusively for heart surgery. An older area of the hospital was renovated to create a new NICU.  As well, the project included an emergency room expansion.

“From an overall perspective, what we are trying to do is move both of our facilities, which are very old, into new technology in the best possible way,” says Dillon. “We’re working within the envelope of the buildings we already have. Sure, we’re going to have some restrictions, but we’re taking the information we have and partnering with some very knowledgeable professionals to modernize some of our equipment.”

They look toward the LEED program for inspiration in improving their everyday operations. “Take an area such as our lab. We have kind of a moderate flow-through. It’s not a real productive area, so I’m going to look at the Estopinal Group to help us develop a space utilization program to try to put that space over into the LEED program. I plan to invite consultants to meet with us to discuss improvement of flow rate, the best floor space arrangement, and for the employees—whatever will make their job easier and more productive.”

The More People Involved the Better

“I have learned over the years through the experience of being a hands-on Director that communication should be my primary focus. The more people you involve and the more opinions and ideas you consider, the more efficiently you can run a department,” says Dillon. “When I assumed this role, the facility director made all the decisions. It’s much more efficient to have a network with other colleagues and other facility directors, in addition to networking with all our staff at our facilities.  This enables me to get a general overview of some different ideas and ways of accomplishing things.”

“I consider myself a highly trained professional, but sometimes my way is not always the best way,” he says. “I’m always very open to ideas on how to cut cost, save money, and run the plant. I know when I get up in the morning, my main objectives and goals are to protect my patients, protect my employees and to protect my facilities to the best of my ability.”

Dillon feels like there isn’t as much competition between hospitals now, but that they tend to focus on collaboration instead. These are lessons learned from events such as Hurricane Katrina. “We are breaking that barrier and saying, ‘Hey, I need to talk to John. He may have some resources I can use or vice versa. I may have ten days worth of food I can loan John because he can’t get his food supply in.”

The Evolution of Hospital Plant Facility Management

When Dillon first began working in healthcare plant management, it involved a lot of hands-on maintenance. “When I was hired, there were 12 or 13 technicians at the west campus for a 120,000 square foot building,” he says. Now he operates that building with four technicians.

Today’s building management is a lot more computer driven. “Take water, for example,” Dillon says. “Going out and getting water temperatures used to be a very big task because we had so many different water sources. Now we can control it all at the central plant. Now we can look on our computer and see what our systems are doing.”

Finding the right employees, therefore, is all the more important. “It’s hard to find a candidate that is dedicated and qualified in healthcare,” he says. “Healthcare maintenance is different than any other type of maintenance because here you are dealing with people’s lives. For instance, if you turn off the wrong breaker, you could impact 10 or 12 patients and it could be detrimental.”

He says his biggest challenge is keeping the plant running on a day-to-day basis with as little interruption to services as possible. Any little thing makes them vulnerable. Let’s say the city, for instance, shuts off the water supply, even if for just a short amount of time. “It impacts many hospital departments. We worry about storms and events we can’t control, but we worry more about things we do have control over like water and sanitation,” he says. “I work collaboratively with municipal employees and public works departments. You turn the water off and you’ve got a major interruption. You better have a good plan that is well communicated to face that down time.”

“I believe in leading my team from the front. If I ask my guys to go do something, I don’t mind getting right in there with them. I run a family-oriented team. All my guys are my brothers. If we go down, we’re going to go down together and when we rise to the top, we’re going to be there together too. I’m not going to be the guy who did it alone. My team did it.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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