Denise Muth, Haskell Healthcare Project Director, left, moderated the panel “Project Development Trends in Healthcare,” which included Mark Allnutt, Haskell Healthcare Construction Division Leader, center, and Kimberly Hansen, System Director of Construction for Baptist Health, right.

December 8, 2021

Healthcare Construction Challenges and Adaptations Highlight Summit

Haskell leaders joined a cross-disciplinary group of experts to discuss the transformational steps taken during 'A Year of Health Care Resiliency.'


As the world marks two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare operations and construction industries continue to battle workforce shortages, capital management challenges and severe supply-chain disruptions.

Gathered for the Gunster Health Care Summit, sponsored in part by Haskell, at the WJCT studios in Jacksonville, Florida, healthcare leaders from the design, construction, legal and administrative fields shared the myriad adaptations and advancements they’ve made to deal with its lingering, if not secular, effects.

More than a dozen panelists spoke with pragmatism and pride about the lessons learned, summed up by Simone Marstiller, Secretary of the Agency for Healthcare Administration (ACHA), who said, “Shame on us if we don’t use what we’ve been through to take healthcare in Florida to the next level.”

Construction labor shortages have been a growing issue since the Great Recession in 2008, but the explosion of pent-up demand caused by suspended coming back online has pointed to the need for an all-out effort to recruit and grow the skilled-trade ranks.

On a stage with a panel of equals in age and professional advancement, Mark Allnutt, Healthcare Construction Division Leader for Haskell, personalized the discussion – to the agreement of all. “You know, the commonality here is that we all have about 30 years of experience,” Allnutt said. “We're aging out of the program. Finding our replacements is critical.”

Finding and Keeping the Team

Recruitment and messaging are key, said Kimberly Hansen, System Director of Construction for Baptist Health. Industry organizations, such as the ACE Mentor Program, an afterschool program designed to attract high school students into pursuing careers in the Architecture, Construction and Engineering industry, and apprenticeships through contractors, subcontractors and the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

“We have to get that pipeline going,” Hansen said. “We're trying to retool the message that not everybody's got to go to college to be successful. And we're trying to engage folks in pursuing construction, project management, architecture and the engineering professions as well.”

Employers need to understand, Allnutt said, that recruiting a new generation of team members is just the start and that culture, experience and opportunity are crucial in maintaining the workforce.

“That means making sure that we're taking care of them from a compensation standpoint, that we're truly understanding what their value is in the industry, and making sure we're providing them the best benefits,” he said. “When I use the word benefits, it's also about being flexible. How can we promote their work-life balance? That's a big thing in today's industry.

“The most important thing for us is communication. I think of communication as a gift and feedback is a gift, both positive and negative. It’s important to be able to understand what our employees need from us to be successful. We need to be giving them challenging opportunities that are fulfilling for their careers.”

Kevin Meek, FACHE, VP and Division Lead of Haskell Healthcare Consulting, shared his views during the panel, “How COVID-19 has Changed Healthcare-Related Industries.”

Creative Cost Management

Escalating compensation has driven labor costs, but the skyrocketing cost of materials has outpaced those increases. Supply-chain issues have created extensive delays – for example, structural steel decking is backlogged more than six months and roofing a year – and given availability priority over price.

In the case of Baptist Health’s Clay Medical Campus Hospital Tower project, Haskell has brought in trade partners early to advise on procurement and worked with the system’s purchasing department to align capital flow. The project is so forward-looking that Baptist has rented warehouse space and instructed Haskell to procure necessary equipment and materials as quickly as possible so that it was on hand when needed.

“That gives us two advantages,” Allnutt said. “One, we are able to get the material, get it in hand, pay a lower price for it, and know we've got it, know that we're not going to be waiting when it's time to actually install it. And two, back to the labor discussion, if we know our trade partner is struggling for manpower, we have the ability to pivot.”

Pandemic-related adaptations have taken all forms.

Design requirements at the Baptist Clay Campus changed mid-project, Hansen said, adding significant upgrades to include HEPA air filtration on all air handlers, additional isolation spaces and significantly increased flexibility with entire units, including the ability to instantly convert from positive to negative ventilation.

At the new Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside Medical Center Heart Hospital, Haskell collaborated with design partners and project owners to expedite completion, then played a pivotal role in one of the first virtual AHCA inspection processes so approvals could be expedited to provide 60 new beds for COVID patients.

“I think this is just at the tip of the spear for innovation in hospital operations,” said Kevin Meek, FACHE, VP and Division Lead of Haskell Healthcare Consulting. “We continue to lead in innovation in medicine, but in healthcare we are just beginning to understand the impact of what innovation can do.”

Haskell’s Healthcare Team plans, designs and delivers transformative solutions. Contact our subject matter experts to explore the possibilities.

Haskell delivers $2± billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,200 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.

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