Jonathan Westall Facility Chat
MLK Jr. Community Hospital: Fostering Innovation, Inspiration, and Accessibility
Jonathan Westall, Vice President of Ancillary Services at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in Los Angeles, is busy adapting to changes within the hospital, meeting with other healthcare professionals at events and conferences across the country, keeping current with statewide healthcare regulations, thinking about what the future holds for healthcare facilities, and what gives him on-the-job inspiration.
Jack: What’s happening at Martin Luther King Jr Community Hospital (MLKCH) right now?
Jonathan: California’s COVID-related healthcare facility waivers, which were put into effect during the pandemic, ended in February, which means that a lot of the workarounds we created to accommodate more patients, including doubling up in rooms and using non-traditional patient treatment areas are going back to “normal.”
We’re proud of the engineering, ingenuity, and problem-solving skills our teams developed during this period, which were real space savers. Going back to “normal” also means more work for facilities teams responsible for maintaining equipment, but we have a great team – flexible, forward-thinking, and innovative. People are ready to get back to doing what we’ve been designed to do.
Jack: What’s keeping you up at night?
Jonathan: Given patients’ longer length of stays and decreased reimbursement, financial pressures are always on my mind. But what’s troubling are the uncontrollable situations like workplace violence and active shootings that have become part of life in the healthcare industry. Other big concerns are recruitment and retention of both healthcare professionals and facility management professionals. It’s hard to find qualified electricians, plumbers, and HVAC technicians.
Jack: How do you see hospitals expanding and renovating over the next five years?
Jonathan: We’re closely examining renewable energy, reducing waste, and decreasing our footprint. The days of building new 800-900 bed facilities is over, but there will always be plenty of work for facility teams to manage smaller facilities as we run 24/7/365.
Jack: What’s the next generation of healthcare FMs going to look like?
Jonathan: That’s a tough question. We’ve got to do more to support the trades, but the good news is that plumbers, electricians, and other specialists will always be in demand. Plus, you can take these skills into your personal life, too.
Jack: Which parts of your job give you the greatest satisfaction?
Jonathan: I love completing projects. I like building something new and seeing patients occupy new buildings. I believe that done is better than perfect.
Jack: What are you reading these days?
Jonathan: I travel a lot, and I like to read on the plane, so I have an appreciation for hard cover books, which I throw into my backpack. Right now, I’m on a biography kick. I’m reading about the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, Henry Ford. I’m fascinated by stories about individuals who’ve faced challenges, created legacies, and seized opportunities. I’m also reading and editing Facility Guidelines Institute's FGI Guidelines, which are used for planning, designing, and constructing health and residential care facilities. I get to partner up with folks from other states and learn about what’s working from their perspective, which I can hopefully apply to our hospital. It’s exciting to essentially shape these industry policies.
Jack: How would you describe your leadership style?
Jonathan: I’m a hands-off guy. I’m not an expert, but I carry a notebook with me, and I take a lot of notes, which helps me learn and apply other people’s expertise into daily operations.
Jack: What are some of the most surprising things you and your facilities team have seen and dealt with in the hospital building?
Jonathan: Believe it or not, we discovered that an important shut-off value had been covered with concrete, making it inaccessible. There are surprises in every building. Fortunately, we’ve been using an app from ARC Facilities that gives us access to building information, including shut-off locations. We’re able to quickly identify areas for evacuating patients when there are emergencies. Fast information access helps us improve responsiveness and make better informed decisions in the field.