Kyle Rutherford – CHRISTUS Health
Kyle Rutherford doesn’t throw penalty flags or blow whistles as he guides construction projects for CHRISTUS Health, a global faith-based health care system operating in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico, as well as Chile, Colombia and Mexico.
However, Rutherford was a football official for 30 years, working 11 Texas state high school championships. He says the teamwork and communication needed to referee those games—often in front of crowds of more than 40,000 at Dallas’ massive AT&T Stadium—is similar to managing new and renovated facility projects for CHRISTUS.
Whether overseeing construction of a new 168,300-square-foot hospital tower or a new 12,000-square-foot emergency care center, Rutherford says he’s communicating with everyone involved—from company executives and project architects to the clinicians and facilities management teams who will be maintaining the portfolio.
There is one crucial difference, of course: Rutherford isn’t dodging 275- pound players running at him as a play develops or turning the other ear to irate coaches.
“My focus has always been on a team approach to projects involving architects, engineers, administrators and end users including staff and providers,” says Rutherford, CHRISTUS’s vice president of construction. “We’re working toward the common goal of providing the best care possible for our patients and extending the healing ministry of Jesus Christ.”
CHRISTUS Health was established in 1999, when the Houston and San Antonio branches of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word merged the two health care ministries. In 2016, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth joined, creating a network of hospitals and health care facilities located mostly in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico.
Each of the congregations had been providing health care services in Texas, Louisiana and New Mexico for more than 60—and as many as 130 years.
In 2017, CHRISTUS began managing construction and expansion projects in-house. Today, Rutherford and his team of eight project managers have a typical workload of anywhere from 45 to 60 concurrent projects.
Foremost among Rutherford’s current projects is the expansion of the Westover Hills Patient Tower in San Antonio. CHRISTUS broke ground on the new five-story building in February, and expects construction to be completed by March 2025. Sited next door to the existing tower, the new facility will add 80 patient beds—including 44 intensive care rooms on two floors; 20 neonatal ICU rooms; and 30 post-partum rooms. The fourth floor will remain as shell space to accommodate expansion of services as needed.
To improve patient services, the post-partum services and rooms will be on the first floor for better access by new mothers and families. The NICU rooms will have “Murphy beds” that fold out from walls so parents can stay with their babies.
“This allows for a comfortable environment for parents of newborns while creating a hospitable environment for our ICU patients,” Rutherford says.
Community care is crucial
The new Westover Hills Patient Tower is not the only ongoing hospital expansion Rutherford and his team are managing. In October 2023, CHRISTUS is scheduled to complete work on its NorthPark Hospital in Longview, Texas.
The project started in December 2021, and will double the size of the existing space to 60,000 square feet. New features include six state-of-the-art operating suites built to focus on orthopedics and sports medicine.
The organization is also expanding its community care services, highlighted by the expansion of the Trinity Clinic in Athens. Work was completed in March, along with an adjacent freestanding emergency room. The clinic expansion doubles the space to about 20,000 square feet. The larger building features a roomier waiting area, expanded lab and radiology rooms, and space for specialty providers in areas including cardiac care, orthopedics, vascular care and pain management, among others.
The adjacent emergency care center is a completely new 12,000-square-foot facility that includes a 12-bed emergency room, four patient intake rooms, and radiology including X-rays and CT scanning. CHRISTUS Health is also planning similar freestanding emergency rooms in Texarkana and Henderson in the Lone Star State, Rutherford adds.
It takes a team
While Rutherford has more than 30 years of experience leading construction projects in health care, he says providing a safe, welcoming and efficient facility isn’t just about finding the right designs and materials; it’s about having the right conversations to ensure the best results.
For example, when he’s leading emergency room construction, he works with emergency care physician Dr. Luis Haro and Vice President of Security Roy Alston to ensure the safety of patients, visitors and staff. When planning new hospitals or facilities, he consults with nurses and practitioners on details such as where to place nurses’ stations and supply closets to minimize how much they need to walk.
“Health care construction is different. When you expand or renovate, you have other people’s lives in your hands,” Rutherford says. “For instance, infrastructure modifications require shutdowns and those shutdowns impact utilities that are critical to our patients’ lives.”
Rutherford has had great success managing construction projects in health care in his native Texas. However, he got his start in the construction industry almost a continent away as a pipe welder in oil exploration in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
He has a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology from the University of Texas at Tyler in 1986. After returning to the Lower 48 from Alaska, he was director of construction for Trinity Mother Frances Health System from June 1993 to January 2013.
Rutherford then left the health care industry to become director of construction and facilities at Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. outside Houston. In January 2016, he rejoined Trinity Mother Frances Health System just as it became part of CHRISTUS Health. He was named to his current position in July 2019.
He no longer officiates football games, but Rutherford’s still a team player.
“I’m fortunate in the fact we have developed a team I’m very proud of. We have the support of our executive team and ministry presidents. I work with a number of local and national architects and contractors, and always foster the team approach,” Rutherford says. “And I enjoy the appreciation and expressions from patients, visitors and end users for the facilities we provide for them. It’s very rewarding to know we’re contributing so much to CHRISTUS Health’s healing mission.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VI 2023 Edition here.
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