Case Studies

Doug Carney – Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital

Meeting the community’s healthcare needs

For over 130 years, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has served the needs of individuals in the Grand Rapids community. As the community continues to grow and evolve, so does the hospital network and its facilities.

Doug Carney, the organization’s director of facilities management, plays an integral role in ensuring the hospital meets the demands of its patients and provides high-quality facilities and equipment.

Doug Carney | Director of Facilities Management | Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital | Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

Doug Carney | Director of Facilities Management | Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital | Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

Since Carney joined the organization in 2014, work has expanded and improved the hospital. It went from a small, 80-bed semi-private facility to one with 190 beds, including 142 private inpatient rooms and a 48-bed space for sub-acute rehabilitation patients housed on the fifth floor.

“We take many hard cases for therapy,” Carney tells Blueprint magazine. “We are expanding facilities in joint partnership with other hospitals and are one of the few independent rehabilitation hospitals in the nation.”

Mary Free Bed is currently in the design phase of a project that will expand services for pediatric inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation.  The three-story, 58,000-square-foot building is a joint venture between Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation and Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“The need to meet the growing community’s health care needs is a driving factor for this project,” Carney explains.

The children are our future

The new Joan Secchia Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital will be a state-of-the-art facility that provides top-tier pediatric rehabilitative care and support to children in Michigan and beyond.

Named after Joan Secchia, a devoted community philanthropist and wife of former Italian ambassador and businessman Peter Secchia, the hospital is expected to cost $60 million and is scheduled for completion in late 2026. Carney says it will be located across the street from the Mary Free Bed Grand Rapids Campus and connected to that building by a skywalk.

Construction of the hospital is slated to begin next year, and upon completion, it will offer cutting-edge facilities such as 24 private rooms and multiple specialized therapy gyms.

Doug Carney | Director of Facilities Management | Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital | Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

“This freestanding children’s rehabilitation hospital will be the first of its kind in Michigan,” Carney says. “It will feature lab space, private treatment and exam rooms, home-like areas where children can practice everyday tasks, and a café serving adult and kid-friendly menus.”

Joan Secchia Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital aims to address the growing need for pediatric rehabilitation services. Mary Free Bed and Corewell Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital have witnessed an increase in demand and have expanded their reach, often at full capacity. The new hospital will enable them to serve more children and families from West Michigan, the wider region and potentially the entire country, Carney says.

Funding for the project has been a collaborative effort. To date, nearly $42 million of the $60 million price tag has been raised. Private sources have contributed $24 million, with an additional $15 million from the state of Michigan and $3 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“We hope to serve about 7,000 children in the hospital’s first year and eventually expand to serve about 13,000 youth annually,” Carney says. “It holds a lot of promise for improving the well-being of children in our community needing special care and support.”

Laying the groundwork

From a young age, Carney was interested in mechanics, which came from his father.

He earned a degree in business administration from Western Michigan University, spent nine years as a director of major markets for P.B. Gast & Sons, and then spent nearly seven years as director of facility services for his alma mater. Carney worked for two years as vice president of operations for CSM Services before joining Mary Free Bed about 10 years ago.

“I started managing at a young age and learned that it’s not about being a boss, but being a leader,” said Carney. “I came to Mary Free Bed because its culture facilitates that leadership style, and I love to mentor our up-and-coming leaders.”

In larger organizations, Carney could fill his knowledge gaps with the expertise of others. He notes that a lot of continuing education is required for his position, and he attends many seminars. Carney is known to be the person to answer questions from a code perspective, and his sales experience has come in handy for special projects and capital projects.

Doug Carney | Director of Facilities Management | Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital | Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

Photo courtesy of Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation

Carney credits his success to his ability to listen and treat everyone differently. He notes that making those adjustments and talking to people on any level has been the secret to his success. While he believes he can teach many of his management skills, he notes that some individuals have a natural gift for management and leadership.

Admittedly, he’s in the final few innings of his career, and Carney says Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has a succession plan in place. Carney believes they may need to split responsibilities between two managers with managerial skills to keep up with the hospital’s growth.

Carney has mentored one of his staff members and notes that compatibility is key. They scored about 92 percent on tests, and his experience has led to a low turnover rate in his department. Maintaining a firm and fair attitude has also contributed to his success.

“You can easily tell how effective someone is as a manager by the amount of attrition,” Carney says. “And I think my natural gifts have been management and leadership. Hiring the right team has made me look good, too.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. II 2024 Edition here.

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