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By Jim Fedele
I have been working in this industry for 27 years. To say I have seen many changes would be an understatement. I feel like the health care industry does provide great employment opportunities, however being flexible is the only way to stay employed. The facility I work at was just purchased by a larger organization and again I am in
the thralls of change.
When I started in this industry in 1990, I was an entry-level technician working at a single hospital with about 3,500 pieces of equipment in the inventory. At that time we were doing PMs and safety inspections on everything. There were six technicians in the shop and we weren’t even doing imaging at that time. We did a lot of component-level troubleshooting and equipment seemed to malfunction more frequently then. Life was pretty simple. The only battle we fought was with the maintenance department to decide who should be working on stretchers, beds and power chairs.
As the health care industry started to feel financial pressures, our forward thinking CEO at the time began to talk about merging with our local competition. I was shocked as our relationship with them was strongly adversarial. When they purchased a CT scanner, we purchased one, when we purchased a new laser they purchased one. It was constant competition. Around 1998 the organizations came together to form a health system. This meant real changes for everyone as we combined services to eliminate duplication and inefficiencies. The biomed department was not immune; we joined forces with the other biomed shop to provide services for the health system. At that time, I was a manager and the other city hospital also had a biomed manager, which meant that only one of us was needed for the newly consolidated shop. We interviewed and I got the Job, they had a different position available for the other guy so he was not furloughed. Frankly, I wonder some days if he got the better deal.
It did not take very long for the next big change to occur. In 2000 ServiceMaster came in and sold the health system their integrated service model. This model consisted of putting all the support services together under a singular leadership to gain efficiencies and cooperation. The idea was to create an organization without silos. At that time the hospital kept all the second level managers on their payroll so I did not have to switch companies, but I did have to run the new program. That meant the reporting structure for me doubled. I had ServiceMaster people to answer to and hospital people to answer to as well. After I learned the new system and figured out how to successfully run the program I was treated to a stable environment, except the occasional software upgrade and platform change, but overall things weren’t too chaotic.
Then, in 2004 Aramark purchased ServiceMaster and my life changed again. The new Aramark people came in and sold the health system their new CTS program. It was different than ServiceMaster’s program in a lot of ways, and promised to save the hospital a lot of money. The big change for me was I had to become an Aramark employee if I wanted to stay at the facility.
Initially, I was not too thrilled about it but once I experienced the support and training that was available to me I became a fan. I have worked with many smart and talented people who have helped me immensely over the years. I was able to be part of something bigger that helped me develop professionally and personally.
In October of 2016, the health system again sought out a partner to merge with and signed an agreement with UPMC, to become UPMC Susquehanna. This, of course, meant more change for the biomedical engineering department. Our new partner has their own program for managing medical equipment and I was faced with another hard decision.
On July 1, I terminated my employment with Aramark and am now an employee of UPMC Susquehanna. It has been a bittersweet decision. I have made many Aramark friends and know their program well. However, to stay with them meant I would be traveling or likely moving. I consulted with my family and deliberated for a month deciding what to do. In the end it boiled down to one thing, family. My personal family and my hospital family are the most important people to me. My wife’s parents are in their late 80s and I need to be around to support them as things get a little harder for them. My hospital family is also very important to me, a lot of my colleagues have been by my side for the past 27 years here, and we have been through all the changes and challenges together. I can’t imagine heading into these new challenges without them.
Anyone who has been in this field any length of time has likely done the same job but had the payer name on their paycheck change one or two times. I was talking to an old friend of mine recently who has worked for four different companies “involuntarily” at the same facility. However, no matter who you work for our mission is always the same, ensuring that no patient is ever injured by medical equipment. To all my Aramark friends and colleagues I wish you good luck, prosperity and Godspeed in all your endeavors. I will miss you all.
Jim Fedele, CBET, has been with Medical Dealer magazine for more than 12 years. He is currently employed by UPMC Susquehanna in Williamsport, Pa. He can be reached for questions and/or comments by email at editor@mdpublishing.com.