Caleb Kelley – Hughston Clinic
- Written by: David Harry
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
There may not be bellboys at the Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital in Phenix City, Alabama, but the sign with the big white “H” encased in a blue background above the entrance carries added value.
“Many of our patients say it stands for Hilton,” jokes Caleb Kelley, system director of facilities management. “That’s how high our standards are.”
And it’s not just the patients who can expect comfort and quality care at the hospital—Kelley is giving surgeons the best conditions possible as he takes an all-encompassing approach to manage Hughston Clinic’s facilities across the South and Midwest.
The work keeps him busy, and the scope of it makes for a thrilling pace.
“I’ve never had a day where I didn’t have a fire to put out or a project to work on,” Kelley says. “Here’s the easiest way to describe it—if it’s not clinical, it’s what I do.”
Based in Columbus, Georgia, the Hughston Clinic was founded 70 years ago and offers orthopaedic care in clinics, trauma centers and a hospital in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana and Tennessee—38 locations in all, Kelley notes.
The system is not only expanding its locations, with six more planned to open in 2020, it’s also branching into new services with the Hughston Medical Group in Columbus. The medical group, which opened this past January, offers allergy and ear, nose and throat care, and Kelley says other specialties and primary care physicians will be added.
Though he visits each site at least twice annually, Kelley and his staff of about 25 are responsible for maintenance and facilities management at eight locations.
Individual landlords or management companies take care of some of the clinics and other sites that are part of the Hughston’s expansion, but the eight locations keep Kelley busy enough, especially as the company upgrades the Jack Hughston Memorial Hospital.
Acquired by Hughston Clinic in 2008, the 110,000-square-foot, 70-bed hospital is getting its exterior updated, including repainting and new signs that better reflect the Hughston brand, Kelley says. Inside are changes that significantly affect how surgeons work while also reducing the energy demand.
“Orthopaedic surgery is a lot like carpentry work,” Kelley explains. “It’s not like you’re in heart or brain surgery where you’re in a dark room and things are going slower and no one has to move the patient or anything like that. It’s not out of the ordinary for us to keep the rooms a lot colder because the surgeons are breaking a sweat.”
While authorities having jurisdiction recommend operating room temperatures should be maintained between 68 and 75 degrees and most orthopaedic surgeons prefer them in the upper 50s or lower 60s, Kelley says the rooms were colder everywhere except under the xenon lighting over the operating tables.
“Just because the thermostat on the wall says it’s 68 degrees and you should be fine, when you’re under the light, it’s a lot hotter,” he explains. “So we’d have to crank the HVAC even more to make up for that.”
The solution comes in three letters—LED—energy efficient lights that also burn cooler. Not only are the surgeons less likely to break a sweat as they operate, the HVAC system gets a break as well.
Other comfort-related improvements include doubling the size of the physicians’ lounge, dedicated documentation stations, and electronic information boards to provide surgeons with the most up to date information on their schedule and surgery flow.
Coping with COVID-19
Although the Hughston Clinic is not a system of general practitioners, as an orthopaedic medical provider, it too had to rise to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Offering emergency orthopedic care and other ER services, the system adheres to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleaning guidelines, limits waiting room volume and visitors, and screens all employees, patients and visitors upon entry.
“We’ve worked with our environmental services contract companies to ensure we are performing deeper cleans more often in our clinics,” Kelley says. “We’ve also added an additional housekeeper at our main clinic to make sure all high-touch areas are being disinfected more often throughout the day, not just after hours.”
Kelley’s travel has also been limited. He’s been managing projects remotely by Zoom meetings and places a lot of trust in the contractors working for Hughston, he says. It’s not the method he prefers.
“I like to be able to meet somebody face-to-face with a handshake, it can mean more to them,” he says.
Given a chance
His father a mechanic and woodworker and his grandfather a well driller, working with his hands, it seems, is in Kelley’s DNA.
Before joining Hughston in 2010, Kelley was an HVAC technician who’d worked in the health care field frequently. He joined the company as a HVAC mechanic, and was promoted to director of facilities management, working his way up over a decade to system director as the system grew with him.
Along the way, Kelley has also become an American Hospital Association Certified Healthcare Constructor and Certified Healthcare Facility Manager and an International Board for Certification of Safety Managers Certified Healthcare Safety Professional.
Outside the office, the father of two can be found at work on his “honey-do” list, or playing guitar, hunting or fishing.
With expansion and a pandemic, Kelley is finding less time to strum a tune these days but rising to the challenge with his staff is more important.
“I was given a chance to grow and succeed by the CEO, so I try to build my team from within and give them every opportunity to grow.”
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