REBUILDING AN ENTIRE HOSPITAL laboratory on a crash basis is a rare occurrence. But in just six weeks, the lab team at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital accomplished that feat.
In June, tropical storm Allison dropped 36 inches of rain on Houston in just two days. One casualty of the widespread flooding was Hermann’s laboratory, located in the basement. “Flood damage to Memorial Hermann Hospital was severe enough to force its closure,” noted James Faucett, AVP System Laboratory Services at Memorial Hermann Health System (MHHS). “This was a particularly challenging, since it is one of only two Level I trauma centers in the city.”
Last July, Faucett told THE DARK REPORT that work was under way to construct a temporary lab from scratch in another area of the hospital and reopen just six weeks after the flood. “With great pride, our laboratory launched on schedule with all services,” said Faucett. “We were ready when the hospital reopened on Monday, July 17. It was an amazing effort by everyone involved.
“The original rebuilding plans were changed to enlarge our new temporary lab to 15,000 square feet,” he added. “It’s an open lab configuration. Because MHHS has a core laboratory serving the system, we did not restart virology, AFP, and some testing in microbiology, special coag, and special chemistry.
“You’ll recall that, because our former lab was in the basement, it was a total loss,” noted Faucett. “We had to replace 100% of the lab. The one exception was our Cerner LIS. The hardware survived the flood. We had to do some recabling and it was ready.
“Construction was finished in just three weeks,” he added. “Vendors then began their work. They did an astonishing job. In the last two weeks before reopening, their service teams worked around the clock and on weekends.”
As a “temporary” lab site, Faucett’s facility operates with a bare concrete floor and no acoustical ceiling. “That doesn’t bother anybody. We like the open design. The old lab, down in the basement, was a rabbit warren of small rooms and hallways,” recalled Faucett.
Faucett’s lab team may have accomplished something unique in the lab industry. “I’ve never heard a story about a large hospital losing its lab because of a disaster, then rebuilding it in a new site on a crash basis in just six weeks,” he offered. “It’s something I obviously hope I never have to do again, but it’s taught us some valuable lessons.
“For one, we’ve learned that our lab people can accomplish great things. They only need to be asked in the right way,” stated Faucett. “Second, we learned the importance of swift action. After the flood, we disbursed our med techs throughout the system and immediately began making decisions and initiating steps needed to rebuild.”