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St. Mary's needed a portable temporary hospital wall fast. St. Mary’s Health System's Dir. of Plant Operations; Ron Vachon explains his construction challenge and how he was able to solve it so quickly and effectively that he said, "I don’t think I have ever solved a construction issue so easily."

Client: St. Mary's Health System

December 29, 2015

St. Mary's Health System Logo

What do you do when you need a wall in a hurry? Here’s what I did.

Ronald Vachon
By Ron Vachon

CHFM, SASHE Dir. of Plant Operations
St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center
Lewiston, ME

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center runs a robust Wound Care program incorporating the use of hyperbaric chambers. It is a very busy department. In a recent Statement of Conditions review we discovered a latent problem. Because of code requirements, the hyperbaric chambers must be in a separately enclosed area from the wound treatment area and currently our chambers are part of an open area for wound care.

My first thought was to build a traditional sheetrock wall with doors and windows to accommodate observation needs of this cross functional team. That would allow us to meet the code and solve the problem. But as you all know, that kind of project can be disruptive to a department and be costly to complete. And no matter how you look at it, walls tend to be permanent. (Or at least until an area needs to be redesigned and the walls “come tumbling down” to use a Biblical reference.)

There had to be another way to solve the problem. The answer came from remembering we had recently used a new system of construction barriers, and in talking to Tim Hebert of Hebert Construction in Lewiston. In addition to running a construction firm, Herbert has started a company called STARC Systems (Simple Airtight Reusable Containment System) which operates out of the former Naval Air Base in Brunswick, Maine.

I was intrigued with these systems as the information provided to me stated that the prefab modular containment panels were safe, secure, air tight, washable and sound attenuating. The panels are reusable providing a GREEN solution, and they can be easily relocated and adjusted to fit. Tim suggested that they can easily provide custom panels for our application, and best of all, they are built to maintain a Class-A flame spread meeting the code requirements that I need in the Wound Care Center.

Designing the panels was not difficult at all and the installation time needed to complete the project was incredibly quick and efficient. While building a sheetrock wall would have taken us many hours, dust barriers, and lots of coordination with the department to work around their patient scheduling, the prefabricated modular panels took a mere two hours to be installed. I don’t think I have ever solved a construction issue so easily.

Here is what most impressed me:

  • Our modular panels were made to order. We installed “c” tracks on the ceiling grid to lock the panels in place, and diagonal bracing over the ceiling by only popping two ceiling tiles. (The stock construction barrier types are versatile have seamless telescoping height adjustments for temporary construction barriers from 80” to 120” with standard 24” and 32” widths).
  • There was no dust or debris during setup or take down. (That’s right, only minimal and short duration zip wall barriers when existing tiles were opened!)
  • The panels are clean and very attractive with an antimicrobial exterior. The roller door took up no space and is durable.
  • Staff love them! (This is a worthy goal in healthcare engineering!) The windows preassembled in the panels were just what staff wanted.

I am pleased to report that Yankee ingenuity is very much alive and well in Maine. And having something that is Made in the USA, or more specifically in Maine, is certainly a plus for our local economy


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