Case Studies

Eric H. Mattson – Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

Hospital facilities director uses best practice to ensure the best patient care

In the five years Eric H. Mattson has been director of facilities at Hackensack Meridian Health Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, New Jersey, he’s guided an impressive array of facilities and capital improvement projects.

Mattson has overseen replacing MRIs, CTs, seven boilers (including four needed to sterilize medical equipment), three roofs covering 20,000 square feet, four new elevators and several air handlers.

Eric H. Mattson | Director of Facilities | Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

Eric H. Mattson | Director of Facilities | Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

Those projects help the hospital, built in stages between 1957 and 1984, and licensed for 468 beds, operate more sustainably and efficiently. Mattson is also leading renovations and upgrades that incorporate ever-changing and innovative medical technology while providing compassionate, dignified and secure environments for patients.

Projects such as these are often like putting puzzles together, especially when reconfiguring existing spaces to make room for new technologies—and prepare for technological advances in the future. In his role, he’s intent on going above and beyond the best practices because of the stakes involved.

“I pull from my expertise in areas including building codes, compliance specialties, physics, chemistry and finance to accomplish my position,” Mattson says. “We’re here to make the right decisions affecting patients who may never know our names and get them back to health and a quality of life—we provide the modern environment for quality care.”

A history of care, new innovations

Riverview Medical Center is one of 17 hospitals in the Hackensack Meridian Health system. The hospital itself celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2022. Riverview became part of the Meridian Health network in 1997. Meridian Health subsequently merged with Hackensack University Health Network in 2016.

Mattson says health care facilities management is at the upper most echelon in the profession and one of the hardest building environments to work in because of strict state and federal regulations, as well as new technologies and innovations that constantly need to be added to an aging facility.

Eric H. Mattson | Director of Facilities | Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

Upgrading the hospital’s 14 operating rooms is an ongoing effort requiring Mattson to work with architects and clinicians, among others, on where to fit imaging units, robotic devices and power distribution, as well as systems that monitor every aspect of the physical environment for life safety, infection prevention and specialty code compliance.

“We renovate not only with an eye for what is required, we set our sights on what’s to come. I’ve found over the years that anyone can read a code section or a ruling of compliance and run with it, but it doesn’t always mean they’re doing the right thing,” Mattson says. “I take a global view of what’s possible. I handpick my staff and insist on excellence, collaboration and open communication.”

Comfort and compassion

Mattson also guided renovations and upgrades to 23 patient rooms in a two-year project that was finished in February 2020. The rooms were created on a general medical and surgery floor that also has the capacity to treat patients with joint and spine problems. He says they need to be arranged so medical staff can care for patients in a comfortable and dignified setting and quickly respond to any emergencies.

From the start, Mattson worked with input from planners and providers on where to place electrical components for life-saving equipment as well as medical gases, sinks and handwashing stations, and proper room lighting. Bathrooms also needed to be spacious enough to accommodate patients who are using wheelchairs or other mobility devices.

“We don’t want the room to look clinical,” he says. “We want to be comforting with things like floor to ceiling windows to capture views of the Navesink River.”

Eric H. Mattson | Director of Facilities | Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

Upgrading Riverview Medical Center’s 31-bed inpatient behavioral health unit in 2020 was perhaps even more challenging. It’s a voluntary patient care unit that needed upgrades to reflect changes in standards and practices for care, Mattson says.

Upgrades required balancing patient and staff security while creating a setting and environment where patients feel welcome and secure, not incarcerated.

Features to prevent self-harm include bathroom fixtures that are rounded and smooth. While furniture is placed to allow patients to move around and not feel confined, it’s also bolted to the floors. The fire suppression sprinkler heads that protect the unit are inaccessible to patients. The rooms also offer river views, but the glass is reinforced and shatter resistant.

The behavioral health unit also has gathering areas with comforting color schemes, but the nurses’ station is placed in the center of the unit to provide views of the whole area and it’s encased in laminated safety glass to protect the staff.

A practice and passion

Mattson studied business management at Monmouth University before earning his bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Penn West Clarion in 1995. In 2012, he became the second youngest construction official in New Jersey when he earned his certification in code enforcement from Rowan College at Burlington County.

But while he brings practical experience in construction and design as well as knowledge of how they’re applied to health care to his role, he’s also got a personal stake.

Eric H. Mattson | Director of Facilities | Riverview Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health

In 2014, Mattson endured fractured vertebrae that caused paralysis on his left side. After reconstructive surgery and fully recovering, he says he found his calling in health care facilities, bringing an engineering mind and a patient’s perspective. He left his job as vice president of accounts at family-owned Mattson Contracting Services LLC to become a project manager at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton in New Jersey. He rose to manager of plant operations there before joining Meridian Health Riverview Medical Center.

Mattson continues to collaborate with doctors, government agencies and inspectors to find best practices.

“What I do is very much a parallel practice to the medical world,” he says. “We don’t have all the answers, but we continue to look for the best solutions and sometimes take creative courses of action. It is very much a practice.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. V 2023 Edition here.

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