Archive for December, 2009

Toys for Afghan Tots!

December 15th, 2009

This year, Milestone elected to forgo traditional gift-giving to clients, and decided to use those funds to bring some much needed joy to America’s troops instead. Operation Wildhorse is a grassroots effort to provide our troops with a meaningful and tangible contribution during the holiday season.

Late last month, Milestone filled 10 flat-rate postage boxes with items requested by soldiers, including LOTS of toys to give to local children, and shipped them to the Wildhorse Squadron, currently stationed in Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan. If you are interested in seeing some of the projects that this unit has completed during their deployment, check out their blog:

Milestone Gets “Serna-fied”

December 15th, 2009

Milestone recently welcomed Eric Serna to their growing staff.

Eric brings a wealth of construction knowledge and leadership to Milestone.  With over 6 years of construction experience, he uses his strong background in engineering, health care, and commercial construction to manage his projects.  Eric focuses on cost-effective solutions and on-budget/on-time delivery for his clients and carefully applies his technical construction knowledge and leadership to process information quickly and effectively.  Welcome aboard, Eric!

Health Care – Elsewhere!

December 15th, 2009

Inspired by the debate over American health care reform, Milestone tapped Jeff Steiner to give an overview of the French health care system. Jeff has lived in France for the past few years and is the creator of the Americans in France website, a resource for Americans looking to live or travel in France.

“French healthcare isn’t really socialized; the French state doesn’t run everything.  What you have is government insurance (Assurance Maladie) on one side that covers about 70% of any given treatment.  On the other side is a mix of private/public hospitals, doctors (most of whom are in private practice), nurses (many are independent and like doctors in private practice) and private (but heavily regulated) labs and pharmacies.

The government insurance is financed through taxes.  Looking at my last pay slip, about 13.5% of what I made (gross) was paid into the Assurance Maladie Fund.  The accounting is to the advantage of the worker; I paid .75% of my gross income to Assurance Maladie, whereas my employer paid a 12.8% tax on my gross income.

The 70% reimbursement figure is generally the lower end of coverage; long-term illnesses, such as cancer, are covered at a rate of 100%.  Many French citizens have private, top-up insurance that covers whatever the French state does not.  From experience, what seems to fall below 70% are things like medication and eye glasses. But I’ve noticed that medication in France seems to be cheaper than in the US, even when you pay the full cost.

Personally, my family doesn’t have private top-up insurance (that would cover the 30% that Assurance Maladie does not), but when we looked into buying some, monthly premiums looked to be about 100-150 euros/month for a family of three (approximately $145-218 US).  Coverage varied but because Assurance Maladie covers anything long-term, there aren’t any preexisting conditions.  In fact, I believe an insurer only has a right to minimal health information like age and sex.

To give you an idea of some everyday health care costs in France; it costs 22€ ($32 US) to see a doctor (it’s more to see specialist), 70% is covered by Assurance Maladie.  The patient cost is 6.60€ ($9.60 US).  In November of last year my son had appendicitis and spent five days in the hospital.  Our total bill (it was just one page) came to 98€ ($142 US).

That’s not to say that French health care is all roses.  The Assurance Maladie’s general fund is in debt to the tune of billions of euros, and has been for many years.  I like the health care I’ve received in France but finding the money to pay for it isn’t easy.  Also some areas of the country have a shortage of doctors and nurses.”

New Technologies for Old Endoscopy

December 15th, 2009

St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System recently completed a world-class endoscopy suite at the O’Quinn Medical Towers in Houston, Texas. The project included the complete renovation of an existing procedure room and scope cleaning room into a high-tech suite for endoscopy procedures.

While the renovation had been planned for months in advance, the actual construction of the project, including City of Houston and TDSHS inspections and installation of the equipment, was completed in only 8 days!

The use of a GE floor-mounted NuBoom allowed for a speedy installation. A traditional ceiling-mounted boom would have required installing steel supports above the ceiling, increasing the construction time and the coordination with existing HVAC and electrical systems. St. Luke’s Clinical Engineering Services worked side-by-side with the contractor and equipment installers to complete the complex cabling required for a custom video display that was a first for GE.

The success of the project resulted from an incredible team effort; Milestone proposed that the users, design team, equipment vendors and construction manager meet weekly in the months leading up to the start of the project.  Together, they planned and scheduled all of the activities that needed to take place beginning on the Thursday night of a 3-day weekend. Challenges included making sure that the construction area was clean enough for Infection Control particle counts the following Monday before 8 am, when cases began, and ensuring that the scope cleaning room would be operational by this time as well.

Despite the short time frame, the project team of St. Luke’s Capital Projects, Milestone Project Management, m-Architects, SSR Engineers and Forney Construction, along with St. Luke’s Clinical Engineering Services, Surgical Imaging Specialists (GE) and Pentax, delivered a project that was on time, under budget, and a show piece for St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System.

What books are we reading?

December 9th, 2009

I thought it would be interesting to see what books we liked and would suggest to others. Here is a list of my current and past favourite books:

Current Book:
1) Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France’s Greatest Treasure by Donald Kladstrup and Petie Kladstrup

Past Favourites:
1) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond
2) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
3) Duty: A Father, His Son, And The Man Who Won The War by Bob Greene
4) Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte

When I have more time, ill give a bit of a synopsis on each of the books and why I recommend them.