Kevin Mannle is fairly certain there isn’t an infrastructure project he hasn’t done. With more than twenty years of healthcare administration and facilities-management experience, he’s had a hand in upgrading, improving, and maintaining every part of a hospital, including elements most people don’t think twice about unless something goes wrong: electrical systems, HVAC systems, sprinklers, fire alarms, boiler and chiller plants, and more. He’s also overseen building construction and power plant installations. Nassau Health Care Corporation (NHCC) might just be his biggest challenge yet, though.
As vice president of facilities for NHCC, which encompasses the Nassau University Medical Center and the A. Holly Patterson Extended Care Facility, located just outside New York City, Mannle is tasked not just with helping maintain its existing spaces; he’s also tasked with modernizing, within a tight budget, the most important public safety-net healthcare system serving Nassau County. While the area is often known for its affluence, Mannle says, the hospital handles a large portion of people in the county who don’t have access to quality healthcare. For Mannle, it means planning ahead more steps than most facilities leaders even have to consider. And, he adds with a laugh, it means being grateful for $5, even when you need $10.
Mannle credits his 18 years with New York Presbyterian Queens hospital—first as an in-house mechanic, then working his way up to associate vice president of facilities—as an ideal proving ground for the challenges he would later face at NHCC. “There was a lot of focus on growing and serving community needs,” he says. Working to make facilities part of the conversation to further these goals was essential, and eventually, Mannle says, he was able to highlight the importance of infrastructure to hospital operations.
Another skill he learned quickly was how to make use of the limited capital afforded to his department. “We focused a lot on process improvement, efficiency, and improving the business model,” Mannle says, adding that the skill became essential when he came to NHCC.
The immediacy with which Mannle can list the current facility needs of his hospital aren’t just impressive in their specificity; they reflect his detailed and scrupulous thought process and his drive to find solutions. It’s an attitude that is desperately needed at a capital-strapped hospital system such as NHCC, responsible for caring for a patient population that often cannot afford care. Mannle has worked to master the art of, as he calls it, “getting the best bang for the buck.”
“One of the biggest challenges is not being able to do everything that you want to do or what everyone expects you to do,” Mannle says. “Every chairman has us looking to address something in their particular area.” It’s why Mannle believes that getting facilities to the C-suite level is imperative. “People don’t always understand the implications of the budget decisions that get made and why you’re not putting enough money into certain aspects,” he says. Being up front and open about those choices not only ensures transparency; it helps keep infrastructure—an often overlooked essential—at the forefront of the conversation.
Despite capital challenges, NHCC has two major facilities projects under way that are set to widen the hospital’s care capabilities. As the only emergency facility in the county capable of receiving patients requiring psychiatric care, its psychiatric emergency room is in need of serious expansion. The hospital is set to transition to a comprehensive psychiatric emergency program requiring three components: a psychiatric emergency room, extended observation beds to hold patients for up to three days, and mobile crisis outreach to follow up with patients in their communities after they’ve been discharged. “We will triple the space of our psychiatric ER and thus provide a much better flow and environment for our patients,” Mannle says.
The hospital is also working to expand its cardiac catheterization lab. It’s currently only able to offer diagnostic cardiac services. Those who need intervention have previously had to find another provider. Mannle says the hospital’s burgeoning intervention services make sense because many of those they serve are so far from those essential services. “It’s not just about growing the patient base; it’s about serving the community,” Mannle says.
While such projects highlight NHCC’s commitment to evolution, Mannle and the facilities team still have the all-too-real challenge of working within the confines of buildings, wiring, and plumbing that sometimes go back several presidential administrations. Mannle often returns to a phrase coined by a friend when faced with all of the infrastructure needs of his hospital: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” For starters, Mannle says, the hospital has had success seeking grant money for essential services. Last year, it received funds from the Essential Health Care Provider Support Program as well as the Statewide Health Care Facility Transformation Program, both offered by New York State.
The most important part of the facilities plan, for Mannle anyway, is the plan itself. While capital for projects may be limited, he knows where it needs to go when it comes. HVAC overhauls, emergency power-system upgrades, and elevator overhauls are all on the horizon for NHCC, and Mannle says the plans are in development for when the funds are. Additionally, his vendor partners are excited to work on the improvements with him, including Donald Speranza, CEO of Nouveau Elevator. “Nouveau’s ongoing work with Kevin Mannle of NHCC is advancing the state-of-the-art Internet of Things, elevating the vital signs of the human network to the next level,” Speranza says.
Mannle says he is motivated to maintain the best he can offer for the people he serves. “I have such an appreciation for the people we serve here, more than even when I got here, having already worked in healthcare for 18 years.” Working for a public hospital may have its challenges, Mannle says, but he knows he’s helping build the infrastructure of a much larger community.