A Patient’s-Eye View of Hospital IEQ

April 11, 2017
In June 2013, I committed to blogging regularly for HPAC Engineering. Through the first nearly four years, I am proud to say, I never missed a deadline—until last month, that is.

In June 2013, I committed to blogging regularly for HPAC Engineering, with my posts appearing in the second and fourth editions of the weekly Fastrack electronic newsletter each month. Through the first nearly four years, I am proud to say, I never missed a deadline—until last month, that is. The reason a post from me was missing from the March 22 Fastrack was that I spent a few days in the hospital, a result of complications from a bad case of the flu (last fall, for the first time in more than 20 years, I failed to get a flu shot). Although I’ve done a lot of work in hospitals over the years, being an inpatient was a new and unique experience. Because there’s always a lot of conversation in our industry about HVAC in health-care facilities, I thought I’d share some observations.

I was a patient at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., a non-profit, 557-bed, full-service acute-care hospital founded in 1955. It has received numerous honors in areas such as orthopedics, urology, gynecology, women's health, geriatrics, stroke care, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and heart bypass surgery, but I was particularly impressed with its recognition for patient safety. It’s one of the safest hospitals in the United States, based on its protection of patients from accidents, errors, injuries, and infections, as evidenced by its "A" Hospital Safety Score. In terms of care, I have only great things to say about everyone with whom I interacted, from my primary-care doctor and his nurse practitioner to the nursing and support staff to the specialists who consulted.

Despite its age, the facility appears modern, clean, and well-maintained, with facilities management apparently under contract to Sodexo. I’d always been upright when conducting hospital walk-throughs, so the view from a gurney—going from my room to imaging, for example—was interesting. I could observe things like lights (the hospital claims to have only energy-efficient lighting, and I saw nothing to dispute that), ceiling tiles (matched, in place, no water stains), return-air grilles (all appeared clean), etc. Also, the patient and public areas that I was in were, for the most part, very comfortable. Obviously, areas like the CT scanning room—because of the environmental requirements of the equipment—were on the cool side, but hospital staff provided plenty of blankets. My room was very comfortable in terms of temperature, humidity, and general indoor-air quality throughout my three-day stay.

Because I was unable to connect with the director of facilities (a Sodexo employee), I have no details about the central energy plant, energy-management system, etc. He and I since have connected on LinkedIn, so perhaps I’ll be able to provide more information in a follow-up post.

Lastly, hospital food is the butt of many jokes, a lot of them justified. Some of us remember when hospital meals were delivered only at certain times and there was little or no individual selection—you got what was prepared. Then, the system was improved to allow patients to order from a limited selection the night before. At least at Holy Cross, all of that has changed. The food-service operation, also run by Sodexo, is called At Your Request – Room Service Dining. Patients can order off an extensive breakfast/lunch/dinner menu—whatever they want whenever they want it—so long as the kitchen is open and the meal selection conforms to the physician-ordered diet (fortunately, mine was a “regular” diet, with no restrictions). Each meal is freshly prepared and individually delivered to the patient room, generally within 45 minutes or less. And the food was surprisingly good.

While a hospital stay is not necessarily something I am eager to experience again anytime soon, it was a relief to be in a place so dedicated to patient comfort and safety.

About the Author

Larry Clark

A member of HPAC Engineering’s Editorial Advisory Board, Lawrence (Larry) Clark, QCxP, GGP, LEED AP+, is principal of Sustainable Performance Solutions LLC, a South Florida-based engineering firm focused on energy and sustainability consulting. He has more than two dozen published articles on HVAC- and energy-related topics to his credit and frequently lectures on green-building best practices, central-energy-plant optimization, and demand-controlled ventilation.