Case Studies

Tim Cornelius – Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony

Improving patient experience with improved facilities

As a paramedic, Tim Cornelius frequently had to deal with extreme trauma. Little did he know that he’d be dealing with a different kind of extreme at work decades later.

As the director of facilities and materials management for Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony, Cornelius ensured patient care continued as usual despite Eastern Texas being wracked by record heat and extreme temperatures this summer.

Tim Cornelius | Director of Facilities and Materials Management | Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony

“I’ve been in this role for more than 30 years, and I’ve learned how to keep my cool, even when the heat is on,” Cornelius tells Blueprint on a hot August day in Sugar Land, Texas. “No matter what, our systems must stay online.”

Clinical experiences in trauma and materials management have helped Cornelius and his team rise to any occasion. His experience allows him to speak the same language as his clinical counterparts and ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the organization’s No. 1 goal: patient well-being.

Upgrades across the facility

Cornelius’ job is to support the hospital’s operation and ensure that all its equipment and facilities are in top working condition, and he takes pride in making the hospital safe and comfortable for patients and their families.

“I want it to be safe and comfortable enough to bring someone from my family here for surgery,” he says. “If I’m not okay getting treated at my hospital, there is a problem.”

Over the summer, Cornelius and his team had to deal with heatwaves that saw temperatures in the area exceed 100 degrees almost daily. Because much of the hospital’s cooling equipment isn’t rated for those temperatures, filters were changed more often, and the facilities team made sure coils were clean and the motors weren’t overheating. Now, Cornelius knows that he needs to start looking at adding new units rated for higher temperatures.

Tim Cornelius | Director of Facilities and Materials Management | Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony

Part of that process includes keeping track of temperature trends and analyzing climate data. If these temperatures continue for several years, Memorial Hermann will likely spend a lot of money on multiple repairs.

“I present the data to our management group and our CEO and look at the return on investment and the cost savings we’d realize with more efficient units,” Cornelius says.

Cornelius says 10 years is the magic number for any new building when equipment and materials may need to be replaced. That may include replacing mechanical systems like the nurses’ calling system with new technology or upgrading vacuum pumps for the whole hospital vacuum system.

“We’re optimistic and confident that the plans we have in place and the decisions we’re making are the best for our hospital, our patients and our staff,” he says.

Preparing for emergencies

Memorial Hermann is a small facility compared to other Texas hospitals and surgery centers. But the emergency response plans Cornelius developed are a big part of the organization’s success.

There are seven plans in place: safety, security, hazmat, utility, fire, emergency operations and medical equipment. Two emergency drills are conducted annually, and there are also trainings related to active shooters and disasters like hurricanes and tornados.

Each year, Cornelius and his team collaborate with the hospital’s CEO, operating room manager, infection control manager and other department heads to review the seven emergency management plans. The group analyzes what staff training is needed, what changes should be made to the plans and what new elements should be implemented.

“We have a great team on the ground across all departments,” Cornelius says. “We’re well-staffed and working hard to ensure a great patient experience.”

An unlikely career

Cornelius spent more than eight years as a flight paramedic. He spent several years working with trauma patients across multiple departments, including the emergency room and intensive care unit. He says it was an adrenaline rush, and he was on high alert the entire time.

“There’s an old saying that if you work in trauma for two years, you’ll work in trauma for life,” Cornelius says. “I never imagined I’d do anything other than patient care.”

Tim Cornelius | Director of Facilities and Materials Management | Memorial Hermann Surgical Hospital First Colony

A back injury led to Cornelius’ move to the non-clinical side of the health care industry. He spent five years as materials manager for Methodist Sugar Land Hospital—he was there when the hospital opened. He joined Memorial Hermann in 2002 and hasn’t looked back.

“Over time, working in trauma takes a mental toll, but I am happy to have had this long a career in health care,” he says. “I’m still helping save lives. I’m just doing it differently.”

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

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