Dependable Contractors Enhance Health Care Construction Relationships
By Peter Fretty
Nothing is harder to earn or easier to lose than trust. Trusting someone means relying completely on a person’s or a company’s integrity, ability, and character. In other words, you have no doubt about their dependability no matter what the situation. Trust forms the cornerstone of any long-lasting relationship. In business, in particular, trust means you can ask someone to do something and rest assured they will do it on time, on budget, and to the highest standards. Guthrie Health, which serves the Twin Tiers Region of Northern Pennsylvania and Southern New York, is keenly aware of building confidence when it comes to health care. Guthrie provides superior quality and highly accessible family-health services. The entire focus of the organization — which includes primary care and specialty physicians, a tertiary care teaching hospital, community hospitals, a research institute, home care, and long-term care facilities — is on winning and keeping each patient’s trust in its capabilities and reliability.
Guthrie expects, indeed requires, the same attitude and approach from contractors that provide maintenance and construction services, and the organization has been fortunate to find two companies that fit the bill completely: general contractor Welliver McGuire and electrical contractor Matco Electric Corporation. Since 1979, Guthrie has relied on these two firms to help it expand existing facilities and build new care centers.
Much of the solid nature of any relationship comes from dealing with the same people consistently. With Matco, for example, Guthrie has worked with only two Project Managers — Ken Elliott and Ron Barber — and two General Foremen — Jim Baldwin and Rich Siebecker —since 1979.
“The foundation of our relationship with Guthrie is communication and trust,” says Elliott. “This keeps everything moving in a positive direction.” Elliott notes that Matco’s partnership with Guthrie was solid at the start and has strengthened ever since. “We take special pride in knowing they feel comfortable coming to us whenever they need something,” he says.
Elliott adds that Matco and Guthrie enjoy a rapport where everyone is open to all possibilities for solving potential problems before they arise. He also takes pride in the attention Matco pays to the sensitive work setting. “As a health care provider, Guthrie’s main concern is the patients,” he says. “Any construction we do for them cannot have a negative impact on the care being provided. We take this responsibility very seriously.”
Another plus for Guthrie is Matco’s willingness and ability to work efficiently to whatever schedules and constraints the health care organization requires. “We keep administration to a minimum by addressing needs as they come up,” says Elliott. “This eliminates a lot of headaches and allows everyone to focus on completing the tasks at hand rather than dealing with time-consuming issues that cut productivity.”
Care and Caution
Guthrie’s general contractor, Welliver McGuire, shares Matco’s dedication to keeping patient well-being first and foremost. Since its initial contract with the health care provider, Welliver McGuire has earned the client’s trust through its attention to detail and its constant dedication to working in the most efficient, least obtrusive manner.
According to Harry Ritzler, Welliver McGuire Project Executive, the way that the entire team has worked on the Guthrie project has served as a template that each member company has been able to take on to other owners and other projects.
“The key to the success with this ongoing relationship has been the foresight of management to put the right people in place,” says Ritzler. “This is all about people and working together as a cohesive team. The tribute really is to the people on the site. It has never been just one person it has always been a team that has blossomed to include other prime contractors over time.”
In addition, giving the client a high level of confidence that they are continuously receiving the best treatment, quality, delivery, and price possible has been a consistent driver, explains Ritzler. “Over the years, the hospital personnel have changed, but we were still able to keep the construction team intact because we were able to demonstrate that as a unit we were in place to help protect them,” he says. “We are not just talking financially, but also operations. We are always cognizant of the work environment and work to make sure that we are not conflicting with patient care.”
Ritzleradds that there were always conflicts, but the key to success has been the ability to work them out to everyone’s satisfaction. “We all know the importance of keeping the customer happy.”
The efficiency stems from the firm’s ability to handle many projects simultaneously and its time-and-material design/ build approach to health care construction engagements. The latter is rarely seen in a sector where a low-bid philosophy dominates. Time has shown, however, that the design/build method saves Guthrie money.
Guthrie trusts Matco to complete every aspect of its work to the highest standard. A good portion of this confidence comes from knowing Matco stays current on codes and new technology.
Having this information on hand makes it possible for Matco to provide accurate, timely, cost-effective technical advice to the Guthrie team on every construction project.
“Matco is a wonderful resource and a great member of each construction project team,” says Guthrie’s Facilities Director Jeff Heath. “We do much of our on-site work with Matco because of its expertise and in-depth knowledge of our facilities. They complement our internal maintenance and engineering staff wonderfully.”
According to Heath, Matco has been very responsive to the hospital’s demanding requirements. In emergency situations, he notes, the firm always has personnel in place, and it never forgets the restraints of working in a delicate hospital environment. “Matco’s service is above and beyond the average outside contractor,” says Heath. “We get real value for every dollar we spend.”
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