Providence St. Mary Medical Center Saving lives behind the scenes – Unsung heroes help save lives in pandemic

By Staff Reports

(Apple Valley)– In an earlier life, Robert Gleeson worked as operations manager for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA Arena and a facilities director for the Cleveland Clinic. Today he continues behind-the-scenes work, supporting a different team of superstars, doctors and nurses battling a continuing surge of COVID-19 cases. 

Gleeson is director of facilities at Providence St. Mary Medical Center, hit exceptionally hard by this second wave of the relentless pandemic. Frontline care teams have saved countless lives while Gleeson and his team of health care heroes works quickly and creatively to make that possible.

The engineering and facilities teams had just days to transform much of the Apple Valley hospital from standard rooms and common areas to highly secure areas to treat a surge of patients who have contracted the fast-spreading virus.

Flexible, high-grade plastic walls rated fire-resistant transformed the hospital lobby and other areas into secure and safe Covid “pods.” 

St. Mary’s 20-unit ICU was quickly overwhelmed so the teams outfitted 34 additional rooms to meet the increased demand for intensive care. The transformation required powerful negative pressure exhaust systems to filter germs from the main HVAC system, delicate balancing to continue normal air flow in other units, cameras to ensure patients are visible at all times to the nursing staff – hence the glass walls in ICUs – and hardwiring for a higher level of monitoring vital signs and other symptoms. Even the door latches were adjusted to best secure rooms where highly contagious patients received care.

Above the Emergency Department, well over capacity, huge metal stacks were added – at a specified height – to safely send contaminated air into the atmosphere. 

As all these alterations were planned, care was taken to meet stringent state health regulations, fire marshal requirements and other mandates for hospital care. Even the large tent outside that serves as unit for patients who do not have the virus are temperature controlled s to accommodate the climate extremes of the High Desert where the mercury can fall well below freezing overnight then soar into the 70s and 80s by day.

Throughout the hospitals, systems were adjusted, mechanics tweaked, all while lives were on the line. Doctors and nurses are the face of health care, but it takes expertise in a range of fields to ensure the best possible care for patients.

If you’d like to schedule an interview with Robert Gleeson and other members of the behind-the-scenes heroes, please contact Bryan Kawasaki at

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