Case Studies

Richard Stone – UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

Construction, support services director leads ambitious hospital makeover

What could bring a Long Island boy out to the farmland of New York’s Chenango County? If you’re Rich Stone, only the opportunity to help save lives.

Stone has worked for UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital for 18 years now, rising to director of support services and construction administration. But two decades ago, he was a technician stuck installing computers in Long Island public schools. Stone, a longtime volunteer firefighter, missed the feeling of immediacy he got from helping people in his volunteer role.

He had some friends in Chenango who tipped him off to an opening for a computer technician at the hospital. He applied, got an offer and moved out to the rural county, where the nearest mall is an hour’s drive in any direction.

Richard Stone | Director, Support Services & Construction Administration | UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

Richard Stone | Director, Support Services & Construction Administration | UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

“The hospital setting is very different than education, and I got that sense of, ‘Hey, we’re doing this for our patients and for our community,’” Stone says. “It’s much more rewarding to be involved in an institution where we’re helping people like that.”

Today, Stone oversees all the departments that keep the hospital running behind the scenes—facilities services, IT/technical services, environmental services, food and nutrition services, security services and emergency management, among others. The public may not realize all that his people do, but patients and clinicians would notice pretty quickly if they stopped doing it.

“I take pride in the fact that nobody knows what we’re doing,” Stone says. “But we know that what we’re doing is a major contributor to the community’s needs.”

Phase two of three

Stone is currently leading phase two of an ambitious three-phase hospital redesign (also known as the Chenango Medical Neighborhood Plan). Phase one, which was completed in early 2022, was an ambulatory services redesign that included the construction of a new emergency room and walk-in urgent care center in a new wing of the hospital.

Stone and his colleagues have divided the present phase into five stages, which they expect to complete by early 2028. Stage one is all about access; they’re redesigning the front entrance to the hospital, which is on the east side of the building, and creating the same wide, easy entryways to the main lobby that they built for the ER and the walk-in clinic during phase one.

Stage two is an expansion of the orthopedic program into a larger, more modern space. Stage three will see the creation of a dedicated infusion center; the hospital had previously only offered limited infusions, but this will provide a five-days-a-week central location for infusions. They’re also renovating some operating room spaces.

Richard Stone | Director, Support Services & Construction Administration | UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

Stage four involves renovating and expanding both the primary care and specialty care spaces. But Stone says stage five is the biggest task of all. It entails a full renovation of the medical surgical area and intensive care unit. The ICU and med surge rooms date back to 1970, when that wing of the hospital was built, although the core section of that area was renovated in 2015.

“What we found with the pandemic is, having a more robust ICU and having more negative pressure is really, really important,” Stone says. “Our focus is to create more resources and have better tools to care for patients.”

Once they finish phase two, Stone and his colleagues will move on to a post-acute care redesign in phase three. That phase is still in the planning stages.

The cost of the three-phase redesign plan, including infrastructure improvements, will reach into the $100 million range. As of May, Stone says the hospital has acquired about $30 million in grant funding over the course of the project.

Keeping their cool

The hospital is comprised of four discrete buildings. The original building was constructed in 1929 and comes complete with a clock tower. Then there’s a three-story addition on the west side of the hospital that dates back to 1958. Over a decade later, hospital leaders added a four-story edifice, which Stone and his colleagues call “the 1970 building,” on the hospital’s south side. Finally, there’s the 2020 building, constructed in phase one, on the northwest side of the hospital grounds.

Among the many details Stone has to address in phase two are infrastructure upgrades such as a new roof for the 1958 building, new electrical gear and new air handlers. They also installed new boilers in the new boiler room built during phase one.

Richard Stone | Director, Support Services & Construction Administration | UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

The high-efficiency air handlers are part of an equipment upgrade that Stone hopes will help warm and cool the buildings more cost-efficiently.

“We used to see much colder winters, and we used to see cooler summers; but things are shifting,” he says. “Such big brick buildings are very susceptible to the sun. We’ve found it’s more difficult to keep the buildings cool than it is to keep them warm.”

When extreme weather events like hurricanes blow through, hospitals can lose power for significant periods of time. That makes it difficult to care for patients. So, in phase one, Stone installed a new one-megawatt backup generator and he’s now adding a second one.

Finally, he and his colleagues are upgrading and expanding the women’s imaging and phlebotomy areas so those services are available in one place. Stone says the hospital has been seeing more patients than it had space for, which was a good problem to have from a business perspective, but a bit of an issue from a patient satisfaction standpoint.

Building a healthcare beacon

After earning his associate degree from Briarcliffe College in 2003, Stone, who also holds six professional licenses and certifications, began working for Nassau BOCES as an IT network specialist. But before long, Chenango County beckoned, and he made the leap to UHS.

At the hospital, Stone has performed six different roles over the course of his climb to director. From information technology to emergency management to facilities services, each left him better prepared for the job he now must do.

Richard Stone | Director, Support Services & Construction Administration | UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital

Stone hopes to make the hospital a destination for healthcare professionals from elsewhere. Perhaps they, like he, will be drawn by the chance to make a difference, he says. And in healthcare, top-of-the-line facilities can have a big impact.

“What we’re trying to create with these spaces is a friendly and efficient environment,” Stone says. “If we can show up-and-coming providers how efficient we are and how versatile we can be, it makes this a better place for clinicians to come and provide care.”

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

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