Scott Kallemeyn – St. Luke’s Hospital
It’s a sensitive operation, much like what goes on in the surgical units at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Only it’s the hospital itself undergoing the operation as part of several major renovations and expansion projects that have been ongoing since 2020.
And a hospital being a 24/7/365 operation, some very intricate procedures have had to be consummated without inconvenience to staff and patients. But as one of the projects wrapped up in late June, Scott Kallemeyn could laud the efforts of the facilities team and the partnering contractors enlisted for the overhaul of the third floor and its 48 patient rooms.
“The third-floor nursing unit had not been renovated since the late 1970s and had lots of outdated features,” he tells Vanguard. “Rather than going in wing by wing, which might have been easier from a phasing standpoint, we did two nursing units all at once. This approach saved us a lot of time and capital dollars, but there were a lot of dominoes.”
As director of facilities planning and operations for the past four years, Kallemeyn and his team have kept those dominoes standing, his team coordinating operations with subcons and overcoming logistical challenges by moving a couple units to another location and containing asbestos while replacing antiquated infrastructure.
He assures everything now complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is designed to be patient friendly. Restrooms have been modernized and some units enlarged to better accommodate patients of all sizes. Safety features have been added to rooms where emotionally distressed patients are treated, and there’s a new and expanded dialysis suite that enhances the nurse-to-patient ratio.
This community-run, nonprofit 542-bed hospital is now capable of seeing more patients Kallemeyn says, and its financial footing should be sturdier in the future—and becoming more so as work proceeds on other major projects.
“We just need to keep making smart investments,” he says, and that includes the upgrade of St. Luke’s Nassif Heart & Vascular Center that’s already recognized as one of the Midwest’s most progressive.
Won’t miss a beat
On average, St. Luke’s says its heart-attack patients are treated 22 minutes faster than the national hospital average, partially the result of a process that expedites transfer from the emergency department to the catheterization lab. Thus, an artery blockage can be removed sooner with greater prospects for outcome, but with demand for heart care likely rising from an aging population, St. Luke’s cardiovascular capabilities are due for expansion.
The project got underway last fall, with upgrades that include relocation of diagnostic cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation and will culminate with a second electrophysiology lab and completely new vascular and interventional radiology operating suite. Everything proceeding on schedule, the St. Luke’s team hopes to have it wrapped up by next summer.
And for those needing less acute but still professional attention for injury or illness, he was hoping construction could begin in July for another major project—an off-campus emergency department in Marion, Iowa, a growing community six miles northeast of Cedar Rapids that lacks such a facility.
As of June, with the lease complete, Kallemeyn is looking at the summer of 2024 for completion of this emergency department with its 10 patient-care rooms, onsite lab and pharmacy, and scanning capabilities. As is the case in other rural states, he says Iowa’s hospitals have been strained by increased demand for emergency services, and how the Marion facility should relieve St. Luke’s often-overstressed ER by locally caring for all patients but with transport available for critical cases.
It’s all part of what he says is anticipating the community’s growing healthcare needs while stretching every dollar.
“We’re always seeking to make sure our patients are at the forefront of everything we do,” he says. “We just have to accommodate the challenges of working in a functioning facility without interruption to services.”
COVID challenges met
COVID-19 brought on extra challenges for the facilities department, but the St. Luke’s executive team having OK’d the capital investment, Kallemeyn says there was no backing off the projects, even if it meant workers adhering to social distancing and dealing with uncertain supply chains. St. Luke’s having nurtured strong relations with area and distant suppliers, he says there weren’t too many delays in arrival of construction materials.
The capital investment projects are expected to be finished by next year and if there’s a secret to timely completion, he says it’s team awareness and how closely his department works with longtime partners. For the better part of two decades, St. Luke’s has had a facility design planning process with several key partners and contractors that have collaborated with their administrative and strategy teams to focus on projects critical to the hospital’s future patient and financial needs.
For Kallemeyn’s part, he’s been with St. Luke’s team since 2005 when he started as an administrative intern, working his way up through surgical services in seven years and now into facility planning and support services. He says he always had a passion to apply his skills in the healthcare sector, though not in a clinical role.
“I’m not on the front lines doing construction though I do sit in on the designing,” he says. “I get to work with our teams conceiving spaces, campus planning and project management. Sometimes I even get to do a little rendering and modeling before handing it off to our architects and engineering partners.”
There’s quite a legacy to build upon at St. Luke’s, which in 1978 became Cedar Rapids’ only hospital to perform open-heart surgery and has since been at the forefront of other cardiovascular progress. The facilities department and operations team will have much more on its agenda, and Kallemeyn stresses it’s indeed a team.
“It’s a fantastic team that we have,” he says. “We get to the opportunity to make better spaces for our patients and team members every day. And since the facility never shuts down, I know I can rely on this team to make sure we are there to support them any hour of the day.”
View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.
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