By Vanesa Vennard
In emergency rooms, doctors and nurses seem to be on call 24/7, working odd hours for several patients. But when it comes to emergencies with the hospital itself, John Muniz, Director of Engineering at Beth Israel, is the one on call.
“My patient is the hospital, the actual infrastructure,” said Muniz, who started at Beth Israel in 2006. “I take great pleasure in the responsibility of my job.”
Muniz handles all things electrical and mechanical, along with the generators, air handlers and plumbing. And his dedication to his patient, Beth Israel, is the reason it withstood the power outages on the east side of Manhattan during Hurricane Sandy.
The Sunday before Sandy hit, he didn’t panic. Instead, he braced for the worse. Muniz made sure there were sandbags in front of the hospital and plywood on the windows. He also got four water pumps in case of flooding. And he scheduled a test for Beth Israel’s 10 generators to make sure they were running properly.
“Thank God we made sure the generators were fine,” he said. “Sure enough that Monday we needed the generators on because we lost all power.”
Muniz said he slept on the floor of his office during Sandy, as he and his staff kept an eye on the generators to make sure they held up. As neighboring hospitals lost power, such as New York University’s Bellevue Medical Center, patients were being sent to Beth Israel.
“Our emergency room was packed, it was just packed,” he said. “It was my commitment to make sure we stayed open and all the generators stayed running and we were getting additional fuel deliveries.”
At one point, one of the generators stopped working. But within an hour and a half, Muniz said he and his team managed to get the generator repaired and running again.
“It was chaotic but I wasn’t alone, it was a team effort with my managers here and workers that stayed through,” Muniz said.
Though Muniz credits his staff constantly, his assistant Tony Renteria had no hesitations when it came to speaking on behalf of Muniz’s leadership, especially during Sandy.
“In emergencies, you need a leader who can think on their feet,” Renteria said.
Renteria has been Muniz’s assistant for two years. However, in the late 90s, Renteria was the Director of Engineering for Cabrini Medical Center and Muniz worked under Renteria. Working together again with the roles reversed, Renteria said he couldn’t be happier.
“I’m proud to work under his leadership,” Renteria said of Muniz. “He’s very humble. He’s got leadership skills that are second to none.”
Muniz has been working in hospitals since 1979. His commitment to his crew and the patients who depend on the infrastructure of Beth Israel to be intact keep Muniz going.
“It’s a very hectic job, very demanding but I love what I do,” he said. “If I get called into the hospital I’m here, I’m always here. If they need me, I’m here.”
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