Case Studies

Eric Siskow – HealthPartners

New tank, new facilities part of the job for Lakeview Hospital facilities director

Eric Siskow was at a Minnesota Vikings game in 2020 when he got a life-or-death call.

Actually, it was a lives-or-deaths call because Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater, Minnesota, just outside Minneapolis, was running out of the liquid nitrogen that’s converted to oxygen for patients.

The oxygen demand had increased substantially to treat COVID-19 patients, Siskow says. But while arranging for the quick refill that saved the lives of at least eight patients, he knew—to paraphrase Roy Scheider in “Jaws,”—“We’re gonna need a bigger tank.”

Eric Siskow | Director of Facilities | HealthPartners

Eric Siskow | Director of Facilities | HealthPartners

Siskow, the hospital’s director of facilities, led the effort to install an 8,000-gallon tank, which was hardly as easy as switching out the smaller one.

For starters, he and his team needed to use an oxygen trailer supplied by local provider Matheson Gas, which was struggling with its own labor shortages. Adding a larger tank for permanent use also required approvals from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, the state’s Department of Health and Stillwater authorities that have jurisdiction, including its fire department.

Also, the new tank had to be separated from a recycling area containing flammable materials—which required digging into the frost-hardened ground to build a blast wall.

And yet, eight weeks after getting the phone call, the new 8,000-gallon tank and a 1,500-gallon reserve tank with liquid oxygen were in place—the hospital now had 9,500 gallons of liquid oxygen, an increase from 1,750 gallons.

“When COVID hit, we were going through our bulk oxygen supply once a week. It was pulling so hard it almost burst pipes in the hospital, and our vaporizers were freezing up,” Siskow recalls. “And we avoided any major impact on our patients.”

New campus, new innovations

Lakeview Hospital, a 97-bed facility in Stillwater, was founded in March 1880 as Stillwater City Hospital. A new hospital opened in 1892, and in 1919, ownership and operations were turned over to city and county governments in Stillwater and Washington County as the name was changed to Lakeview Memorial Hospital.

In 2011, the hospital joined HealthPartners, a consumer-governed nonprofit healthcare organization founded in 1957 that serves more than 1.8 million medical and dental health plan members throughout the U.S.

Siskow is currently part of the team planning for a new hospital to be built on 78 acres of land in Stillwater. As he chatted with Blueprint in June, he was interviewing candidates to be the owner’s representative in the construction—ensuring plans and budgets are followed.

Construction will likely take five years from planning to completion. Siskow anticipates the new hospital will be up to seven stories, but square footage and other details haven’t been settled on—or how the current hospital will be repurposed. However, the goal is to achieve carbon-neutral operations.

Eric Siskow | Director of Facilities | HealthPartners

He and Lakeview’s executive team were to begin working with architects, designers and engineers on a master plan once the owner’s rep was hired. Siskow says that process requires getting input from surgical, nursing and other care providers as well as the community at large.

The new campus will also include a medical office center and outpatient surgery center as well as a central utility plant where Siskow wants to have fully automated controls for HVAC and lighting. That not only ensures operating rooms stay within the required temperature range of 68-72 degrees and less than 60 percent relative humidity, but it also allows heating, cooling and lighting to be modified when areas, including patient rooms, are vacant.

Siskow also foresees using robotics for cleaning the hospital and delivering meals to patients, which would help alleviate labor shortages in facilities and food service. Incorporating radio frequency ID tags for equipment and instruments will help track inventory and improve maintenance procedures, he adds.

“We’re going to build a midsize hospital to serve patients even better that are in our community,” Siskow says. “We’re going to provide a great experience and help people as soon as they park and come in.”

Rounding out his skillset

Siskow grew up on a farm in the northern Iowa town of Sheffield, but his interests were more mechanical than agricultural. After earning an associate degree in electronics engineering from Hawkeye Community College in 1995, he moved to Minnesota and became a maintenance specialist for Cypress Semiconductor Corp.

After working in manufacturing for almost 19 years, including at medical device makers Boston Scientific, from 2006 to 2014, Siskow heeded advice from a friend who said working in facilities in health care could add to his skillset and provide leadership opportunities and joined HealthEast as a maintenance engineer.

“I wanted to get a deeper understanding of facilities,” Siskow says. “So, I learned the building and life safety codes and how to lead. Health care has given me a ton of opportunities.”

Eric Siskow | Director of Facilities | HealthPartners

In 2015, he joined Alina Health in River Falls, Wisconsin, as a facilities manager. In January 2018, he joined HealthPartners as facilities manager for Lakeview Hospital and was named to his current position as facilities director nine months later when his predecessor retired.

In January, Siskow joined a team of surgeons and dentists to provide care and services to people in Guatemala. He helped renovate the hospital where the services were done, which included setting up equipment, fixing and cleaning the solar panels that provide power, and helping set up vacuum pumps and hospital beds.

He completed his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix in April and says he’s going to get an MBA next as he looks to advance in HealthPartners, too.

“I love planning, design and construction,” Siskow says. “This is a big job we have in health care, and I love helping our campus think outside the box.”

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

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