Operating Room Floor Maintenance | Facilities Expert Interview

An Interview with a Healthcare Facilities ExpertPosted: Apr 2013 Posted by: JoAnn Durette


I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with and interviewing the Assistant Director of Facilities at the hospital ranked number one in the US for 21 consecutive years.  The inner city hospital is the 26th largest with a complex that includes over 80 entrances and receives 80,000 visitors weekly.  It has over 1,000 beds and a staff of over 1,700 doctors with 30,000 total employees.

My goal with our interview was to understand and then share best practices in OR maintenance from a facilities expert at one of the best hospitals in the country. Well, I got that and much more.



On the afternoon of our interview, I zigzagged my way through the bustling hospital corridors to the facilities department.  I waited in line for the elevator down to the basement and was escorted to the Assistant Director’s office in the furthest back corner.  Before I was able to get myself situated with my laptop on the couch in his office, he had instantly captured my attention with stories about managing snow crews and many nights of sleeping in the office and thus, the reason he had a couch.  While I was only meeting him for the first time, he openly discussed some of his most significant life events, sharing a combination of personal and professional triumphs and challenges.  It was all so interesting; I suggested he ought to write a book.

The Assistant Director began his career at the hospital in the carpenter apprentice program right out of high school in 1967. Forty-five years later, you can still find his carpentry trade certificate proudly displayed on his office wall.  He is a caring family-man and employee.  When he is not working, he does carpentry work, fixes up corvettes and spends time enjoying his family.  He is a man full of energy, enthusiasm, dedication and passion.

After 45 years on the job, you might begin to imagine his substantial experience and expertise.  The scope of his responsibilities at the hospital is immense as the Assistant Director in charge of all building maintenance and grounds.  As he explains it, he is responsible for maintaining the order of everything you can see.  This is a long list consisting of walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, fixtures, furniture, landscaping, snow removal and well, if you can see it, it’s his job.  His team consists of 10 supervisors and 100 staff members working 4 shifts, 24/7.

From a water main break that incapacitates an entire floor for a year, to urinals completely torn off of newly renovated bathroom walls by visitors, the facilities personnel at this inner city hospital manage upkeep and repairs that are continuous and unfathomable.   In addition to regular cleaning and maintenance routines, the facilities team must also follow the rigorous infection control protocols, perform unusual tasks like testing water in a fountain every 2 hours and adhere to strict budgets.

The Assistant Director has built long-standing relationships with a lengthy list of external contractors he relies on in times of crises.  He speaks appreciatively of the outside crew that helped him get 4 operating rooms back in service within 4 days after substantial flooding from ruptured pipes and the team that removed and replaced 110’ high hurricane damaged walls of sheet rock within 72 hours to eliminate potential mold growth.

After we had talked for quite a while, he took me on a tour of the facility.  We first went to the original areas of the hospital built in 1889 with amazing architectural elements and ornate details that the Assistant Director explained were all created onsite and without the advantage of power tools.  We later passed through a newer area and he told of a recent event where someone had shot a bullet from outside, through the glass, at a decorative art sculpture in the Children’s wing.  No one was hurt but, the large wall of broken glass was a costly repair.  Throughout our walk, he pointed out improvements that his team had made, sections with upcoming renovation plans and aspects of the building that function well and those that do not.

Finally, we got to our discussion on the maintenance of operating rooms. The staff at the inner city hospital performed 23,433 annual inpatient and 34,990 outpatient surgeries, according to the most recently published report.  With 46 surgical suites and such high demand, keeping operating rooms running is one of the highest priorities of the facilities team.  Strict attention to infection control is integral to keeping the ORs in service.  After the patient and surgical team exit the OR, facilities personnel immediately begin decontamination routines to remove debris, stains and microorganisms on everything from overhead lighting and equipment to tables and walls.

The Assistant Director explained that turning over an operating room can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours determined by the room conditions and amount of repairs required.  Walls and flooring surfaces are especially susceptible to damage during both the surgical and cleaning procedures and there are a variety of surface materials throughout the 46 suites.  The hospital’s Design & Construction team is in charge of new construction and major renovations and has specified different surface materials over the years from sheet vinyl to epoxy flooring.

Sixteen operating rooms in the newer building were constructed using sheet vinyl flooring that the facilities team had to replace four times in four years.  The flooring would stain easily and was difficult and time-consuming to clean, taking up to two hours to sterilize between operations.  The rigorous sanitization process required to maintain the floors would often cause damage, as scrubbing out stains would result in the removal of sealer and the need for costly repairs.  Falling instruments and rolling tables and carts would further damage the floors, causing tears and broken seam welds.  After replacing the vinyl flooring for the fourth time, it became clear that they would need an alternative solution for future renovations.

They were considering terrazzo flooring as a potential alternative when they were introduced to Floorazzo™.  The terrazzo tile seemed to have the durability and stain resistant qualities he was seeking so, the Assistant Director and his staff decided to do some testing of their own.  One of their experiments included pouring betadyne all over a Floorazzo™ tile and after 4 days they were able to easily remove the potential stain from the surface.  A short time thereafter, one of the hospital’s busy corridors needed new flooring and they installed Floorazzo™ to evaluate its durability under the high traffic conditions.  When they were sufficiently convinced, they decided to proceed with Floorazzo™ in the next two ORs that required replacement flooring.

Floorazzo™ engineers presented the seamless floor, cove base and transition wall system, Floorazzo™ FUSION™, to achieve the improved flooring performance as well as reduce wall damage caused by rolling gurneys and medical equipment.  The flooring was installed in just a couple of days, less than half the time it would have taken to pour terrazzo.  The Assistant Director stated that Floorazzo™ helped reduce sterilization time between operations from two hours to twenty minutes and the expense associated with the constant need for repair of the walls and floor was eliminated.  Over the 7 years following, Floorazzo™ has been installed in all 16 of the surgical suites in the now 13 year old building.  The facilities team takes care to perform routine maintenance and they seal the floors every 6 months.

The Assistant Director enthusiastically reported that not one work order has been submitted, except for an occasional light bulb and that sort of thing. He also disclosed that EVS crews much prefer working in the building with 16 Floorazzo™ ORs.

The time I spent with him passed quickly.  As we were wrapping up, I asked him what advice he would offer other environmental professionals in similar positions.  He simply stated, “Listen to the people”.  He didn’t elaborate, but I knew what he meant.  The people involved and closest to the tasks being performed and that ultimately contribute to the desired outcome, provide vital input that helps make the best decisions.  Isn’t that kind of like evidenced based healthcare design?  Well said sir!

JoAnn DuretteJoAnn Durette
“With a bachelor’s degree in business and a few years, ok decades, of marketing experience under my belt, I managed to convince Mats Inc. to hire me in 2007. I have always been big on sharing information and I have way too many opinions to keep them all to myself and so, I blog.”

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Categories: Case Studies, Healthcare Flooring, Expert Spotlight

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