Crothall helped transform the Javits Center into a temporary hospital and continues to support on-going environmental services needs to help in the city’s fight against COVID-19.
An interview with Michael Villani, Senior Vice President EVS
If this were a normal April, New York City’s Javits Center would be gearing up for its annual auto show, packed with gleaming concept cars from around the world.
Instead, the city’s premier convention space has been converted into four 250-bed field hospitals, built in less than a week to accommodate anticipated overflow due to COVID-19. We are proud that Crothall has been part of it.
Crothall’s Senior Vice President Michael Villani, Vice President of Operations Paul Killion and Senior Project Manager Steve Capone have been onsite at the Javits Center throughout the transformation. Together, they are helping to organize an effort that coordinates the US Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), 531st Hospital Center at Fort Campbell, 9th Hospital Center from Fort Hood, US National Guard, and regular Javits Center employees.
“Compass Group was involved from the beginning,” says Michael. “One of our divisions, Levy, does all the functions in the Javits Center’s food service operation. In early discussions, we offered FEMA assistance in other sectors. They said they had it under control. A few days later, however, they realized that they didn’t have an EVS option. So, they went to New York Health and Hospitals (NYC H+H) to ask how they did it.”
The NYC H+H told FEMA about their partnership with Crothall and Compass, and how the enormous healthcare provider could rely on us for professional excellence across multiple facilities.
“FEMA asked us if we could engage on Thursday, March 26, at 4pm,” Michael continues. “By Friday at 11am, we’d submitted clarification questions. Before we even received the answers, they told us that we would be doing it. It wasn’t a demand, but we couldn’t back out. By Friday at 11:30am we’d committed.”
We interviewed Michael Villani on March 31, just as the Javits Center was preparing to open as one of the largest hospitals in New York City.
Where do you begin with a project like converting a convention centers to a hospital?
We put leaders in place. Paul Killion, Steve Capone and I started talking to Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and FEMA. Steve Capone and Paul Fratta, Director of Standardization in the Northeast Region, volunteered to provide onsite leadership. We began by figuring out what we had and what we needed. From there we could talk how we would build systems and Collaborate with other service providers to handle laundry, waste, regulated medical waste, EVS, medical gasses, food service, everything.
Before we were actually onsite, Steve Capone had schematic plans for units. We wanted 24-hour coverage, which meant 36 full-time employees (FTEs) for phase one and phase two—1000 beds. If the Javits Center goes to Phase 3 and 4, which would mean 2,910 beds, we will need more staff.
We were able to negotiate an agreement for bedding from NYC H+H, and facilitate people working onsite. We were not able to mobilize Crothall and Compass associates, but we have excellent partnerships with two labor companies, RJR and Jersey National, which helped us secure 36 FTEs.
Strauss Paper, our supplier for janitorial supplies, sent Senior Healthcare Account Manager Juan Marmol to the Javits Center personally, to help us secure the materials we needed. He had all the supplies there by 3pm. Everyone is working together.
Why did you need to secure FTEs from outside the company?
In this region, 90-percent of our facilities are staffed with hospital-paid employees, not Crothall. All hospitals are strained right now as New York is in the center of the storm.
Right now, we have 32 managers under quarantine with positive tests or exposure. That’s just my region. Everyone is moving to the front. For example, Compass National Director for Patient Experience Sophia Troiano and three of her Patient Experience Managers—Jenn Rodriguez, Mavis Cortes and John Moran—have volunteered to support us operationally. Ellie McDaniel is providing administrative support. This is happening across the company. I could not pull resources from existing business to staff this project.
Was this part of a pre-existing pandemic plan, or are we improvising?
We have operational plans for emergencies, but no plan could have prepared us for what we are dealing with right now.
We were, however, able to build our response by mobilizing existing hospital plans. These helped us understand what supplies we would need, so we were able to quickly identify what we could and could not get. For example, our entire region is low on hand sanitizer. We asked FEMA and they have supplied that.
Our company and teams have stepped up and are responding to the call. We’re working together to make it happen during this crisis.
Do you have enough personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Like the hand sanitizer, we couldn’t get enough PPE on our own. So, we negotiated with OEM and FEMA to supply our people. We now have all the PPE, all the hand sanitizer we need. Crothall and Compass brought in all the rest of the equipment.
How is it different from cleaning a hospital?
It’s not as intense as a hospital setting. It’s a very basic setup with no ancillary space. The layout allows us to be very productive and efficient with sanitizing. But with the transition to a COVID-19 status facility that will drastically affect how we train and manage the operation.
The Javits Center is not currently set up for COVID-19, but for people with other health problems who can’t risk exposure at a regular hospital. Will that change?
There is a separate section that’s isolated. If the Javits Center has to accept COVID patients, we’ll have equipment just for that, resources just for that.
How is patient experience involved?
Everyone is stepping up in this crisis and doing whatever it takes to support our teams and operations. With what’s going on in hospitals, patient experience and rounding have been pushed to the side. But despite the crisis, despite the fact that associates have been willing to step in and work on the front lines, they still try to provide comfort to patients and enhance the experience as best they can.
They’re trying to limit exposure, but just working with patient experience managers, you can feel the human touch.
You are on the frontlines of this crisis. What have you learned that you would like to share with the rest of the country?
The situation is real. This virus is directly affecting all of us—family, friends, colleagues, staff. We need to do whatever we can to protect each other during this crisis.
This crisis has really put into perspective just how important our work is, how vital our people are to the well-being of patients and the healthcare industry as a whole. I haven’t gotten one call, not one complaint, from anyone saying that they can’t do the job. They are getting out there every day making it happen! It is amazing!
I have never seen the things we are seeing right now in our hospitals. The volume and requests have doubled. The level of patient acuity, the number of deaths—it’s unprecedented.
The level of commitment and courage our people are illustrating is unbelievable. I am in awe watching them handle all of the requests, dealing with staff shortages, keeping staff they do have engaged and confident so they can do their jobs. They are doing this with such professionalism and calm.