Communication - the key to hospital refurbishments

  30 SEPTEMBER, 2017      INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Novus workers fixing hospital interior wall

Few environments present as many challenges to working tradespeople as hospitals. But like all busy public buildings, hospitals require refurbishments and upgrades on a regular basis to keep their wards and corridors safe, functional and visually pleasing, while also adapting to meet changing needs of patients and staff. In a recent article for Healthcare, Design and Management magazine, our contracts manager Jason Bowen explained how important effective communication is when working within the healthcare sector.

More often than not, hospital upgrades need to be carried out while the healthcare facility in question remains in use, which makes the management absolutely vital. To avoid unnecessary disturbance and cost, both hospitals and maintenance firms must take responsibility for understanding the most effective approaches to this complex challenge and balancing the needs of the hospital and its staff with the demands of the project.

Novus recently completed works to upgrade the fertility unit at Birmingham Women’s Hospital as part of an extensive refurbishment covering a number of different areas at the hospital over several years.

The project, which took place over a four-week period, involved the full refurbishment of 14 rooms at the fertility unit, including the main reception area, all while the unit remained in use. Novus was assigned the task of delivering the upgrades, but not before the full scope of the project and its implications were explored thoroughly with hospital staff.

At the very outset, hospital staff explained the exact expectations of the project and what they hoped would be achieved as a result. The Novus team worked with hospital staff on these aims and suggested some alternative routes to achieving key outcomes with the least disruption possible to staff, patients and visitors.

This was just the first stage and once complete, the team then met with the head matron on the fertility unit, who was able to outline the most urgent needs of the staff on the unit and the general public who use it every day.

This information gathering stage is key to any hospital project, and the approach to communications with management and key staff members sets the tone for the project and informs the creation of an appropriate programme of work. However, it is vital that any programme of work remains flexible, with wriggle room built in to accommodate the outcomes of further project meetings.

The importance of the communication between the project team and the head matron cannot be overstated. Once the programme of work was put together, including the cost, there followed regular meetings and the programme was continually revised due to the constant changes in the live hospital environment.

There was no pause in the fertility unit’s activity during any period of the works, and ultimately, if we failed to plan properly for every potential outcome, the risk was a denial of essential treatment to the people who needed it.

Another way in which hospital refurbishments can be managed effectively without the need to close off entire areas for a prolonged period is to adopt a rolling programme of works. In such cases the team would agree to work on just one ward within a unit at a time, leaving the remaining wards live whenever work was being carried out.

While working on another project, Novus worked on a bi-weekly basis to give hospital staff sufficient breaks from the unavoidable disruption to their daily tasks.

Effective planning and continuous project meetings ensured that there was never any need for members of the Novus team to come into contact or liaise with the general public. Works were scheduled for the least busy times of day as far as possible, and whenever work was being carried out the public were informed in advance.

The fertility unit at the hospital benefits from having two separate entrances, and the work was carefully coordinated to ensure that hospital patients and visitors were able to access the unit without encountering any dust, noise or disturbance.

By taking a painstaking approach to planning and by making clear communication the absolute top priority, hospitals and their maintenance firms can mitigate many of the problems that absorb time and value out of a refurbishment project.

Even in the most sensitive of medical environments, it is possible to deliver outstanding building and decoration works without jeopardising the vital services provided by UK hospitals.

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