Plant Engineering Doesn’t Want to Be Noticed
By Shannon Kettler
You can see their work all day, every day when walking the halls of Cincinnati Children’s. Plant Engineering is the team making sure the power is on, the lights are working, the HVAC systems are functioning, the water is running, the utility systems are operating, and the list goes on. “We don’t want to be noticed because we are the silent partner until something happens like a flood, power failure, etc.,” said John Kuhr, Sr., director of Plant Engineering at Cincinnati Children’s. The 80-plus-member team quickly responded when hospital clinical leaders asked for help preparing the medical center for the COVID-19 pandemic. “We were asked to create 44 special isolation units or SIUs to prepare for an expected surge from COVID-19,” said Kuhr. “It was a very complicated thing to do in a very short period of time and still meeting Airborne Isolation room requirements.” Engineers worked closely with multiple departments across the medical center to convert the infrastructure of the rooms to negative Airborne Isolation pressure. This technique allows air to flow into the isolation room and keeps contaminated air from leaving the room. With this, it causes continuous monitoring to ensure proper airflow.
(Shown) One of the Special Isolation Unit rooms converted by Plant Engineering to prepare for COVID-19.
“We work very closely with Infection Control every day, testing to make sure the proper air changes and pressure relationships are maintained,” said Kuhr. “The air is part of the protective environment, and we want to make sure everyone in the room and outside the room are safe.” The conversion of rooms is in addition to maintaining and repairing facilities and grounds throughout all the Cincinnati Children’s campuses. Plant Engineering is a 24-hour/7-day-a-week operation. “As plant engineers, we aren’t involved in direct patient care, but the systems we maintain are an integral part of staff, visitor and patient safety. Our job is to make sure everything else is running smoothly so care teams are able to provide the best care to our patients,” said Kuhr. “Caregivers should not have to worry about something not working. Our goal is to make sure all focus is on the patient.” During the pandemic, team members with Plant Engineering continue to respond to all facility-related items, large and small tasks. What has impressed Kuhr the most is the collaboration among employees no matter what is being asked of them. “I’ve watched a really exceptional team be more exceptional,” he said.