Case Studies

Jonathan Hunley – Bon Secours Mercy Health 

A pillar of strength for Bon Secours infrastructure 

So how does one keep tabs on the infrastructure of 48 hospitals and around 600 ambulatory sites across seven states and Ireland? 

Well, as Jonathan Hunley explains, it’s good to have a playbook for prioritizing the many ongoing and expensive tasks at hand. Thus, his so-called four pillars of infrastructure, which he rolled out last year to sustain the physical needs of Bon Secours Mercy Health, the nonprofit Catholic-based operation that’s one of the nation’s 20 largest healthcare systems. 

Jonathan Hunley | System Director, Infrastructure | Bon Secours Mercy Health 

Jonathan Hunley | System Director, Infrastructure | Bon Secours Mercy Health

Those vertically integrated pillars comprise patient and staff safety, regulatory compliance, operational impact and energy efficiency. Through project managers evaluating work based on these criteria, Hunley says a composite score is tabulated, which makes it easier to determine what should be done next and how it fits into his budget at a time when capital resources are tight and all departments are being ordered to economize. 

“My job is to prepare for the worst,” the friendly infrastructure system director tells Blueprint from Cincinnati in March. “But with careful planning, the worst hasn’t happened.” 

Worse won’t come to worst 

Soon to celebrate his fifth anniversary with the Bon Secours infrastructure team, Hunley has a firm grasp on the details while overseeing an ambitious to-do list that includes central utility plant upgrades or construction at eight hospitals, each costing between $12 million and $25 million. He says each represents quite the investment, explaining that the cost should be vindicated by long-term efficiency and risk mitigation.   

Each plant project also presents another opportunity for Hunley to put his N+1 program to work. This means ensuring that all critical equipment has the backup in place and while it means ordering more parts than what’s at the time necessary, it keeps the systems humming should something falter. 

“It’s a best practice that mitigates risk and enables resiliency as we prepare for the worst-case scenarios that we usually avoid,” he says. 

Then there has been his creation of design standards for the building envelope as well as MEP guidelines—mechanical, engineering and plumbing—for all construction projects moving forward. Hunley and his hired hands collaborating with the facilities and real estate departments, there’s been a push toward sustainability that includes geothermal projects at locales that include a Virginia hospital and Kentucky cancer ward as well as solar initiatives on various campuses. 

Co-generation is also on his agenda, the catalyst being 30-year-old equipment that with savings through tax credits realized from the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, has been fine-tuned to increase the amount of CHP or combined heat and power. The waste is used for heating and the ensuing waste for cooling.  

“As a taxpayer, I hate it, but I love working with these (tax credits) because we can pursue projects that we might have otherwise been able,” Hunley chuckles. 

Sound as a stretched dollar 

So Hunley knows how to stretch a dollar as well as oversee the tinkering with the mechanics that sustain the operations of a major healthcare provider. It’s all part of the role he seems he was cut out to do, though it might have taken some soul-searching. 

Originally an economics major and football player at Division III University of Mount Union in Alliance, Ohio, Hunley moved to Northern Kentucky University, where in 2008, he earned credentials in construction management and business administration. Even before graduating, he garnered real-world experience as an estimator at Globe Mechanical Inc. in Louisville and then as a project manager for his first healthcare role with CINFAB in Cincinnati. 

Hunley logged eight years there, responsible for the physical and financial management of projects for the healthcare, pharmaceutical and higher education sectors. Afterward came a short stint as a senior project manager with Dynamic Systems Inc. in Atlanta and, in 2016, the start of a three-year-plus stretch as director of plant engineering operations and maintenance with St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Florence, Kentucky. 

He joined Bon Secours in September 2019 as director of infrastructure and, in December 2022, was promoted to his present and more strategic role as system director. And, as he explains, there’s always much on the strategic front to oversee in healthcare, especially when his responsibilities affect 60,000 employees and facilities in Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Virginia, as well as five on the Emerald Isle. 

It helps to be a thought leader with, at last count, seven professional certificates on his wall, and Hunley is recognized nationally as one who’s well-versed and eager to share his ideas on healthcare facilities infrastructure planning and improvement. There certainly was much to give and receive in that area during COVID-19 when the infrastructure department couldn’t pause critical projects but still had to adhere to safety protocols.  

Bon Secours having experienced a strain on staff and facilities, asymptomatic employees or those with mild symptoms were allowed to return to work. The worst of that pandemic hopefully over, onward the infrastructure department pushes with Hunley’s four pillars ensuring efficiency. 

And his role is one where the learning never ceases, what with technology always evolving and any aspect of healthcare under pressure to keep even or ahead of the industry curve. But how rewarding he says it is to be so instrumental in allowing a faith-based profit to, as its mission statement says, “to extend the compassionate ministry of Jesus by improving the health and well-being” of communities and those in need. 

Home life also satisfies, with Secours and his wife raising two daughters and two sons, all between the ages of 3 and 12. He’s a pretty fair golfer with a 5-handicap that might even be lower with more time on the range and green. But to Hunley, golf comes well behind family and facilities oversight at Bon Secours. 

“My role is to deal with facility issues so we may deliver the best care possible to our patients,” Hunley says. “That’s what we’re there to for at the of the day.” 

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




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