Memorial Hermann–Texas Medical Center Expansion
The work managing the expansion of the Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center hospital began humbly: with an initial contract to renovate a clinical observation unit. The initial project budget was $11 million. But over 5 years, the scope of work increased to 20 subprojects, and the budget expanded in kind to nearly $800 million. We managed the design, construction and activation of the only level-one trauma center in the Southeast region of Texas including 155 intensive care bed, 40 operating rooms, a helipad, and an 65 bed emergency center—interconnected to an operating . What began as a minor renovation became a transformation of the hospital doubling their level-one trauma capacity.
Focus on the Facility’s Users
We always prioritized the experiences of patients and staff. For example, immediately as construction was completed units were required to be ready for patient care. This meant we had to ensure people’s protection during subsequent phases of construction. We also considered what it might be like for patients and family to enter the space, what it might be like to get treatment, and how the facility appealed to visitors. Each aspect was considered from compliance, safety, to efficiency.
Then we considered the vantage of nurses, doctors, and other staff. In designing each hospital unit, we anticipated and planned in close partnership with the staff how each person would interact with the space. As Melissa Kam said, “My role as Director of Operations was to collaborate with the project’s external and internal stakeholders to ensure designs were executed through construction and move-in. Chris was the most effective external stakeholder and construction manager to work beside. He became a truly valuable asset to the MH-TMC team through his ability to relate to a diverse group of internal stakeholders including clinical staff, clinical leadership, physician leadership, and administration.
A Cooperative Culture
We joined the team after the developers had engaged several consultants who were not functioning as a cohesive unit. The architects had their ideas, while the contractors and staff had their own. We streamlined the payment systems and made sure the right people were assigned to the right work. We matched personalities with user groups and designers.
Melissa Kam, Director of Operations for the project, later wrote that Chris Hopkins “became a truly valuable asset to [our] team through his ability to relate to a diverse group of internal stakeholders, including clinical staff, clinical leadership, physician leadership, and administration.”
Not Everything Goes as Planned
Just three weeks after we opened the Memorial Hermann Hyperbaric Chamber project a close friend of the CEO of the local hospital system suffered a serious diving injury. His family contacted the CEO and he committed to treat him in the new unit. Responders flew him to the hospital’s hyperbaric chamber, but the staff didn’t feel comfortable treating him, and he had to go elsewhere for treatment. This incident forced a shut down of the department and loss of revenue.
Vice President of Hospital Operations, Lance Ferguson, later wrote: “I personally asked Chris [Hopkins] to intervene and “just resolve it.” Chris quickly researched and created a custom commissioning protocol. He then went the extra mile to lead a week-long commissioning process. This required Chris to ensure a complex team of critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, chamber fabricators, hyperbaric technicians, pharmacists, physicians, engineers, and an impatient administrator (me) were all working in unison. This was extremely challenging, the stakes were high, and Chris executed flawlessly.”
Following this reset, the friend was returned to the Memorial Hermann Hyperbaric Chamber unit to complete his treatment, and he fully recovered from what could’ve been a life altering disability.
Ownership of Projects
Some call us project managers, but we prefer to call ourselves
“owners/reps.” Informed by our military ethic, we run to problems,
not away from them. We strive to be a seamless part of the
ownership team. We are proxies who are experts in all areas of
the execution of capital construction projects and who can
leverage project management skills to get the right work done at
the right time for the right price. As this hospital project
demonstrates, we like to leave owners better off than when we
started. We change and define standards of best practices for
design, construction and reporting.
We don’t run away from problems; we run towards solutions. In
the military, as in project management, you may get ambushed
by the unexpected. Most peoples’ tendency is to run away.
Wrong. Counter-intuitively, our project teams face the unexpected
with confidence and attack the problem to find opportunities.