Based at Wellington Hospital, Leon Clews is Operations Manager – Facilities and Engineering, for the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast District Health Boards. He has been with the DHBs for 10 Years, and iin his current role since the end of 2013.
What does your job involve?
I am responsible for leading and managing the Facilities Management, Maintenance, Capital Works and Clinical Engineering (CCDHB only) teams across the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley and Capital and Coast DHBs. Predominantly it’s a strategically-focused role with an emphasis on H&S, forward planning, and energy management but also living within our means. DHBs own large numbers of buildings and keeping them all fit for purpose is a constant challenge.
What does FM mean to you/your organisation?
To me, the experts Barrett and Baldry summed it up best: it’s about integrating the operation, maintenance, improvement and adaptation of the buildings and infrastructure with the people, places, processes and technology to create the environment that supports effective patient care. We have plenty of typical office space but we also have a huge process-orientated environment with theatres, imaging, nuclear medicine, laboratories etc. (some really cool stuff), that means an extra level of attention to detail is necessary.
What is a typical day like for you?
During the average day I will liaise with many people, including some of the executive management team, regarding issues or queries they may have, act as project director where appropriate decisions are required, normally hear about or get asked about one or two specific localised problems somewhere across the DHB and spend some focused time implementing our large energy management programme. I am also a member of the Health Asset Management Improvement (HAMI) group that has recently been started by the Ministry of Health to drive best practice asset management across the sector, and as part of that I have specific tasks etc. that need to be fitted in.
What are some of the challenges of your job/your organisation from an FM point of view?
Budgets and resources are always our biggest challenges. The population-based funding model for DHBs doesn’t take into account the upkeep of buildings and infrastructure so we are always fighting for an appropriate share to keep on top of things in competition with patient care. It’s a constant juggling act to prioritise issues against many different drivers.
What is the most interesting element of your job from an FM perspective?
When you spend time talking to our people (clinicians, nurses, service leaders etc.) about their building and infrastructure needs, you also learn what it is they do. I really enjoy learning the medicine by osmosis. It really helps to understand the challenges they have as well. It does have its gory sides though …
What are some of things you like most about your job/about working in FM?
Variety is guaranteed in a hospital as is complexity. Both of these things make the days go fast. I have also seen the team really grow in its capability as healthcare and building technology changes.
What do you think are the most important skills required to carry out your job?
Using information to make informed decisions is critical. This could be something technical or just as likely, helping a team member work through a problem.
Many facilities managers describe themselves as ‘accidental’ FM’ers. How did you get into facilities management?
Accidental fits well. I was originally a building services project manager working on a build at the hospital when one of the Hospital Maintenance team told me there was a vacancy opening up. It seemed like the right time to have a look and I was successful in getting the job as maintenance supervisor, directly looking after the trades staff. I’ve had a few role changes since leading up to where I am now.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Being able to develop the team into what it is today compared to where we were 10 years ago. We have much greater capability now across a wide range of things and as first responders to issues that really helps keep the wheels turning.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in FM?
It’s a great career that can see you work across a wide range of industries and types of facilities around the world if you want. There are huge opportunities for networking and some great associations like FMANZ bringing industry together to share experience and support professional development.
When you’re not at work, what do you enjoy doing?
We were lucky enough to get a house with a big section so right now building a new garage is a priority, as is getting the summer vegetable crop in. Outside those ‘hobbies’, I have two small children so spending time with them is top of my list while they still don’t think they know everything.