Paul Robinson – Crothall Healthcare/MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center
Sitting for hours outside of MedStar Georgetown Hospital’s surgical waiting room back in May 2017, Paul Robinson clearly remembers the stress he felt as his mother underwent hip replacement surgery.
It was a trying time for his family, but it was softened by the kindness of the MedStar healthcare staff. Subconsciously, he says, that experience steered him to seek work in health care.
By 2018, Robinson was named project manager—and later the director of facilities management—at CBRE, working on the MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital account. That position segued into his new post as the director of facilities with Crothall Healthcare—at MedStar Health System that supports 10 facilities.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, he is now responsible for a healthcare facility—MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center—encompassing more than 315,000 square feet. It includes 30,000 square feet for the emergency department expansion, along with a new lobby, triage area and MRI unit, all set for completion in March of 2021.
“These are trying times, but I chose to get involved in health care because I really wanted to give back to this community. The values of MedStar really align with my own,” Robinson says of the Columbia, Maryland, organization. “I want to help others that are less fortunate. Here, not everyone knows how to facilitate their own self-preservation.”
Robinson brought to the group an impressive 20-year career in the construction industry, with strengths in project and facilities management.
That career started, he says, “with a good stint of learning about facilities” as a student at the University of Maryland College. There, he earned a degree in civil engineering in 1993 and a master’s degree in real estate development in 2017.
Handling project management roles for Turner Construction and then the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for more than 20 years, Robinson took his first major real estate development position at CBRE after graduation.
“Joining CBRE got my foot into the door in health care,” he notes, which led to his transfer to Crothall and his current director role, gained with the support of MedStar President Chris Wray and his boss Grant McClure, the vice president of operations at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital.
“This position has been a blessing,” says Robinson. “Because the location has diverse demographics—I enjoy getting up for work every day and giving back to the community.”
Certainly, there’s a lot to operate and maintain with a total of 315,000 square feet of healthcare facility space at the main hospital, built in 1977. Projects large and small encompass everything from changing out air handling units to overseeing the operations of three, 300 horsepower on-site boilers that require the attention of engineers around the clock.
Respect for the department—past and present—is paramount, Robinson notes, as is a focus on patient care and comfort. When he joined the team, he was not one to rock the boat, he says. He only sought to make the department more efficient and better for associates and was eager to bring his leadership skills to the table for vision, strategy and motivation.
“One idea was to continue to integrate our systems with the hospital itself,” he says. “To do that, we upgraded to a new computerized maintenance and management software program to increase the associates’ efficiencies, as well as extend the useful life of our equipment.”
MedStar’s current 30,000-square-foot expansion project—tagged at $25 million—covers the emergency department, lobby, triage area and MRI unit and was 80 percent complete as of late December. Soon Robinson will start renovation of an additional 11,000 square feet of patient treatment rooms.
“These were already in the pipeline prior to the pandemic, due to the increasing population and needs we have in Prince George County,” he says.
One specific COVID-19-related project, however, was the conversion of 73 negative pressure rooms which started in March 2020. As Robinson explains, the hospital installed air purification systems in these rooms, forcing the exhaust outdoors as a safety measure.
“It’s a sign of the times,” he adds, noting the recent waves of cases that “unfortunately caused us to reinstall an additional supplementary morgue for expired patients.”
While facility maintenance and construction take up roughly 80 percent of Robinson’s time, his work also requires conducting monthly joint commission mock surveys regarding the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to maintain regulatory compliance, ensure government funding and maintain accreditation for the hospital. The goal is to remain in compliance to help as many members of the community as possible.
“The focus is always patients first,” he says.
To pursue his dream of helping others, Robinson prioritized his education. He credits his alma mater, the University of Maryland—and the support of his significant other, Emma—for making him the facilities director he is today.
“The university was very well structured, and Emma allowed me to bounce ideas off of her,” he says. “She’s been the rock and the foundation in my life that helped catapult me into my current position.”
Ever the student, Robinson plans to carve out time to study law as it relates to construction and health care, to help him further his career at MedStar. He says he hopes his perseverance to achieve his goals is a lesson for his three sons Jordan, Jared and Jake.
“When you find something you love to do—and you have the health and strength to pursue your work—there’s nothing like giving back to your community to bring joy into the lives of those less fortunate than yourself,” Robinson says.
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