Mike G. Schilling – West Jefferson Medical Center
Mike G. Schilling never considered working in facilities management in health care as he worked as an area operations manager for Dave & Buster’s or as a property manager for Corporate Realty Inc. in the New Orleans area.
Then in 2021, Schilling was diagnosed with a type of cancer so rare it could only be treated through surgery as opposed to radiation or chemotherapy.
As he spent time in the hospital, Schilling says he had time to reflect on how crucial facilities management is in health care settings—how someone is always needed to keep it running and prevent any disruptions in care.
Schilling is cancer-free now—and he’s director of facilities management at West Jefferson Medical Center, a 419-bed not-for-profit hospital in Marrero, Louisiana, near the banks of the Mississippi River.
“Now I’m fully in love with health care facilities management and the knowledge that comes with it,” Schilling says. “Every 15 minutes is a new 15 minutes, whether it’s working with a burnt-out lightbulb or HVAC issues.”
Vital renovations for care
Part of the nine-hospital, not-for-profit LCMC Health System since 2015, West Jefferson Medical Center opened in 1960. It was one of the first New Orleans hospitals to serve a residential area known as the Westbank of Jefferson Parish, across the Mississippi River from the Big Easy. The hospital remains the major health care provider for Westbank residents.
LCMC Health took over operating West Jefferson Medical Center from Jefferson Parish government while making the financial commitment to upgrade and expand the hospital.
As Schilling joined West Jefferson Medical Center, it was in the midst of a $100 million renovation and expansion of its eight-story south wing building. The project began in 2019 with building new entrances to the outpatient surgery and physician clinics. It also included building a glass canopy wide enough to extend over two lanes of traffic.
The outpatient surgery center was expanded by 6,500 square feet in fall 2020. Four new operating rooms and eight new recovery bays were added along with more storage and support areas. A short time later in 2020, the endoscopy center was relocated to a new 10,000-square-foot space, which doubled the available space. Also, six new procedure rooms and 15 private recovery rooms were added along with a new dedicated entrance and parking area.
Then, in winter 2021, the 10,000-square-foot emergency department was completely renovated with a new drop-off point, a new triage and treatment center, and three new state-of-the-art trauma rooms as well as an ambulance bay.
The renovations continue as Schilling serves as the liaison between hospital leadership and Lemoine, the general contractors. The $1.2 million in repaving and improvements to the parking lots and garages was completed recently. As he spoke with Blueprint in July, the hospital had just cut the ribbon to open its new main entrance and opened the renovated neonatal intensive care unit.
In the eight-story tower, Schilling says patient rooms are getting converted from semi-private to single occupancy with new beds, monitoring systems, and plumbing and medical gas fixtures.
The rooms on the fourth through eighth floors will be used as “med surge” rooms to accommodate patients in the event of a disaster or a public health emergency. Also, two rooms on each of the floors can be converted into pandemic mode rooms with negative air pressure to remove airborne contaminants. If needed, the whole eighth floor can be turned into a negative pressure area at the push of a button, Schilling says.
He says one of the biggest challenges in making the renovations is preventing any disruption to patient care. That’s required moving patients, taking floors out of commission and working nights and weekends when necessary.
The renovations are expected to be completed in 2025 and a second phase of work may occur following that. As the work progresses, Schilling is working with Bernhard, a Metairie, Louisiana-based engineering and contracting firm, on energy conservation efforts. Those include a campus-wide conversion to LED lighting and upgrading the HVAC system with a heat pump chiller that recaptures and reuses heat that used to escape, he says.
Other sustainability efforts include replacing air handling units and adding automated systems that are computer controlled and provide real-time data on lighting, air pressure and air temperatures throughout the hospital.
“This, in turn, helps lower costs at the hospital and we can pass those cost savings on to the consumer,” Schilling says.
Making an impact
Though it took a frightening crisis for Schilling to consider how he could manage facilities in health care, he grew up around the industry thanks to his father, Michael Schilling.
The elder Schilling spent nearly 40 years working in facilities at the Caesars Superdome, Smoothie King Center and Champions Square, home to the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.
The younger Schilling earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration, management and operations from the University of New Orleans and joined Dave & Buster’s in January 2017. He helped in the site planning and construction for the company’s first arcade, sports bar and restaurant in New Orleans.
As property manager for Corporate Realty, Schilling oversaw projects including $3 million in HVAC upgrades, $1 million in elevator upgrades and $1 million in lobby renovations for tenants but says West Jefferson Medical Center provides an especially rewarding environment to apply his skillset.
“LCMC Health is making a great contribution to West Jefferson and the community,” Schilling says. “I get to encompass the entire campus where all our patients are taken care of. We directly impact a patient’s environment.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VIII 2023 Edition here.
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