Knowing what’s at stake

The Lady Dunn operations team show off their newest overflow culvert. From left: Steve Brown, Andrew Scott, and Len Gauthier.
The Lady Dunn operations team show off their newest overflow culvert. From left: Steve Brown, Andrew Scott, and Len Gauthier.

Property issues facing rural and remote healthcare facilities

Wednesday, December 6, 2017 – Michelle Holden

When a sprinkler line broke over the main nursing station of Manitoba’s Pine Falls Health Complex in 2013, the words “water damage” jumped off the page of potential risks and became a reality for Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority (RHA).

That same reality hit at Lady Dunn Health Centre in Wawa, Ontario in 2012, when over 100 millimeters of rain and a blocked culvert caused water to come rushing in the doors of the facility.

Property disasters like these can quickly become major, and very expensive issues for all healthcare organizations, but especially for rural facilities like Pine Falls and Lady Dunn who may not have immediate access to public emergency maintenance and support.

According to Rodel Figueroa, HIROC’s Engineering Liaison Associate, HIROC subscribers in rural areas typically face greater challenges on the property side due to geographical factors. “Physical location alone can sometimes mean greater exposure to things like flash floods from uneven land like hills, valleys, and water overflow from lakes and rivers.” But location also leads to issues such as transportation delays, higher costs for materials and contractors, lack of nearby alternative care facilities, and extended response times for emergency services. 

Gary DandeneauFor Gary Dandeneau, Regional Director, Capital Planning & Facilities Management at Interlake-Eastern RHA (pictured right) a key ingredient in addressing risks for rural organizations is community. “In order to have that support system, everyone must know everyone.” Whether it’s the local school bus company for emergency patient transportation or the volunteer firefighters closest to your community – Dandeneau says everyone must be consulted. 

Len Gauthier, Manager of Operations for Lady Dunn Health Centre knows all too well the importance of community. As a member of the volunteer firefighting team in Wawa, at times he must wear two hats, especially when alarms bring the crew to his facility. “We have a very good relationship with emergency services in the region,” he said.

There is also an emphasis on communicating internally – knowing who to call and when. “We have phone lists at all of our facilities with 24h maintenance staff who live nearby in the community,” said Dandeneau, “A Facility Manager is also on-call 24/7 which means one dial-out number.”

At Lady Dunn the closest remediation companies come from a few hours away in Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. “Our schedules have to align,” said Gauthier explaining that staffing for remediation efforts can be a challenge with regard to timing and location of the facility. 

Dandeneau says that technology plays a vital role in property management. “All of our facilities are monitored through a central monitoring company,” he says. Facility personnel receive notifications of water leaks, critical building alarms, and other property issues in real time on their devices. “Having the ability to shut down air handlers and other types of equipment without being on site is critical.”

Gauthier says it’s also critical to understand your facility and the surrounding landscape. “Our awareness is a lot more in tune with what could happen after the 2012 flood,” he says. For example, changes like Lady Dunn’s newest overflow culvert gives them piece of mind that the building would be safe if a similar incident were to occur.  

When it comes to understanding the facility, HIROC works with FM Global to conduct site visits to all subscriber facilities. According to Mamoon Ali, Account Consultant for FM Global, some of the most common recommendations relate to sprinklers (installation, monitoring, and inspection) and water leak/flood emergency response plans. “It’s about making sure everyone is on the same page and aware of the risks,” says Ali.

Both Interlake-Eastern RHA and Lady Dunn know that all of the plans and technology in the world wouldn’t have the same effect without proper training and awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the staff. “You have to ensure you have a strong team in place,” said Gauthier.

Michelle Holden is Communications and Marketing Specialist, HIROC

Planning resources

HIROC Risk Reference Sheets: HIROC Risk Notes: