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 John Kucko: Little Mill Creek in Wayland, NY

End of an era: Jim Gross retires after 50 years

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Pictured: Jim and his engineering crew at Noyes Memorial

DANSVILLE — Friday marked the end of an area at Noyes Memorial Hospital in Dansville with the retirement of Jim Gross, Director of Engineering. This morning was the first day in 97 years a member of the Gross family will not be employed at the hospital.

“I was hired in the late 60s at the old hospital back when it was on Main Street,” said Jim. “I did minor work with the lab and maintenance at the time. I was going to go back to school when the hospital found itself without a Director of Engineering. They offered me a 6-month position in May of 1972 until they could find someone permanent — and the rest is history.”

He has held the position ever since.

“I got hired at the old hospital before the move to help with the first intensive care room,” said Gross. “I worked alongside nurses Ann Henrich and Mary Burnside to build out and open the room.”

Prior to Jim Gross’ arrival at Noyes, his father, Herbert J. Gross, worked at the hospital.

“My dad worked at Noyes for 47 years. He passed away the year that I took my position,” said Jim. “My dad worked day and night and I can remember as a teenager telling him I was going to get a good job and take care of him someday. I never got the chance.”

Herbert Gross, Jim’s father

Herbert Gross had many jobs at the hospital during his tenure. According to the timeline in the hall in front the switchboard, “Herbert J. Gross was in charge of maintenance at Dansville General Hospital prior to the 1937 hospital addition. He continued to serve through the 1952 addition and into the planning of the new Nicholas H. Noyes Memorial Hospital. He ran the coal stoker for the old boilers, repaired the plumbing, checked and repaired all hospital equipment and was a very good x-ray technician. He was certainly an unrecognized shining star in the smooth operation of the hospital for many years.” He also grew vegetables for the hospital, raised rabies that were used to determine a woman’s pregnancy, assisted in the OR with hip replacements, and stepped in anywhere else he was needed.

In the past 50 years, Jim Gross has followed in his father’s footsteps and has contributed an incredible amount to the hospital over the years.

In addition to the 60 building projects of all sizes he has overseen, one of the things Jim Gross is most proud of is the adoption of technology over the decades.

“In facilities we have come from making entries in a general ledger to using iPhones to scan barcodes and document and conduct compliance activities,” Jim said. “That’s the biggest single change and such a huge asset. I would say that our workers do five times or more the work now in the same timeframe than we did when the building first opened. About 30 years ago I was frustrated with where we were with technology and production and management of information. I learned how to code and wrote a facilities computer program to advance the technology at Noyes.”

Thanks in part to that program, nearly all of the facilities documentation is now paperless. He demonstrated how, with a few keystrokes, all documentation from any piece of equipment in the hospital can be instantly accessed. It took less than a minute to pull up the original users guide from a boiler installed in the 1950s, for example.

“We probably manage the second largest library in the healthcare system next to the patient record,” he said.

While he understands the impact of the technology advancements he has brought to the hospital over the years, it is clear he is most proud of the people he has worked with.

“I’ve had 173 people pass through the engineering department over the years I have managed it,” he said. “I love learning and I love teaching.”

This sentiment was echoed by many members of his staff Wednesday.

Jim and Debbie

“Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today. I came here with a high school education and he has taught me a lot,” said Debbie McCray, Projects and Contracts Coordinator at Noyes, who has worked with Jim at since 1989. “He loves to teach. He’ll get all of us together and teach all of us at the same time. Through that that I learned much of what has allowed me to advance. It’s not just us, he has done the same for his peers and consulted with other facilities. He has affected a lot of people. A day doesn’t go by where we don’t learn something new.”

Over the years, Jim has amassed quite a number of stories about the hospital he enjoyed sharing with his crew.

“I have a vivid memory of my director of environmental services telling me to come look at the corridor down by dietary one day,” he reminisced. “When I got there I found a Locum Tenen doctor had pulled in its Volkswagen Rabbit diesel into the hallway to keep it warm and to keep the snow off of it. Needless to say, I had to tell him not to do that again.”

He spoke of the great feats of community members and volunteers raising money and donating their time to make hospital expansions a reality.

Another memory he shared was the reseeding and fertilizing of the front yard at the hospital after the new building was built.

Hundreds of truckloads of fill were brought in to raise the level of the land in front of the hospital. Volunteers showed up with their own machinery to move the land around and get it to what it looks like today. Once that was complete, a local pilot donated his time and helicopter to seed and fertilize the lawn.

Jim would watch in amazement as the helicopter came up over the top of the building, swooped down to the lawn to dump the seed and fertilizer, then rise back into the sky again, narrowly missing the power lines at the bottom of the hill.

“When I started working here, it was just the hospital proper. I literally took it over within one month of moving patients here. I’ve had a hand in everything that has been built out ever since.”

Jim is looking forward to spending more time with his family in retirement. He isn’t quite done with Noyes yet though, he will remain on as a. Per diem employee. He has also been asked to consult in the healthcare field and will remain active with the local Association for Healthcare Engineers chapter, which he helped found 50 years ago.

Jim had these parting words to say to hospital employees:

“Continue to rise to the challenges you’ll be presented with as healthcare moves at an ever-faster pace. Education of staff is important for growth and adaptation to change.”

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