Dave Koch’s and Ken Sensenig’s minds are always working.
When the two building technicians look at ordinary items such as door frames, flooring, paper towel holders, screws, door knobs, sinks and ceiling tiles at WellSpan Philhaven’s Mt. Gretna hospital, they are carefully determining: Are these items safe for our behavioral health patients? Are they designed and installed in a way that ensures the patients cannot harm themselves in any way? If they are not safe, how can they be re-designed?
Koch and Sensenig are WellSpan Philhaven’s innovative fix-it guys, who spend their time engineering and installing building fixtures that not only are workable but are safe and ligature-free.
They are the living example of Philhaven’s longtime vision of “Finding a better way,” something that is now is one of the WellSpan 2025 values. “Most everything you need is not something that is already designed,” Koch says. “You have to think of a way that is outside the box.”
For example, Koch has designed a ceiling tile clip that keeps the tile grid tightly fastened and ligature-free. In Philhaven’s wood shop, Sensenig has specially constructed fire extinguisher covers that are ligature-free.
Says Sensenig, “Adaptation is a something we do on a daily basis.”
In recent years, ligature-free fixtures have become a standard in behavioral health inpatient units, encompassing everything from beds to floor drains to television cabinets. These elements can more easily be incorporated into new construction but can be challenging to retrofit into an existing older building, such as Philhaven’s inpatient hospital in Mt. Gretna, which has sections built between the 1950s and 1985. That’s when the building technicians must get creative.
“We are always aware of our surroundings and whether they are safe,” Sensenig says.
“Our maintenance team is really integral to our daily operations,” says Mantha Kotsalos, senior director of inpatient services for WellSpan Philhaven.
“As we come up with ideas of how to make our units safer, we rely on these guys to help us with that.”
“They are constantly putting the patient first,” she says. “It’s not about what’s going to be easy for them and what’s quick for them. They want to do things the right way, and that’s what makes them stand out.”