Maggie works as a Housekeeper at St Clare Hospice, playing a vital role in ensuring the Hospice is clean and hygienic at all times. Never has this role been more important than during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Maggie has been working on the Frontline of Hospice services throughout the pandemic, and along with the other Housekeepers in the team, she has had to adapt to new working conditions and challenges.
She spoke to us about how her role has changed, and how the St Clare team has been brought even closer together throughout this crisis.
Q: It is now more than 100 days since the UK went into lockdown, how have you been coping?
A: “I can’t really believe it has been that long! It has certainly been a ‘different’ time to live through. The hardest thing has been not seeing my grandchildren for three months – but luckily we can now meet again, in a socially distanced ‘bubble’.”
“I have still be going in to the Hospice this whole time, but it has been strange and a bit eerie to see all the empty offices – with the vast majority of staff working from home since the middle of March.”
“But for those of us who are still working in the Hospice, and I work in the Inpatient Unit as a Housekeeper, the team spirit has been stronger than ever. We have always been a strong team who supports each other and works together, but it is even more so now.”
“We have all been looking out for each other even more than usual – and you know when someone asks ‘How are you doing today?’ that they really mean it. You can really tell that.”
“At the start of the outbreak it all felt a bit crazy, but now we have got used to our new routines and procedures – we are just getting on with it, and finding ways of working.”
Q: How has your role as a Housekeeper had to change and adapt during this time?
“Obviously, hygiene and cleanliness play a huge part in the control of this virus – so we have really had to step up our procedures and change how we do things.”
“We deep clean the patients’ bedrooms every time someone is discharged, and this process used to take approximately 30 minutes. Well, it now takes five times as long – about 2 and a half hours of cleaning in each room.”
“We have put so many new processes in place, including washing the windows, carpets, chairs, curtains and bedframes – as well as using a disinfectant fogging machine. Absolutely everything is bleached and disinfected. It is very intense.”
“There are eight rooms on the Inpatient Unit, so we have had to increase the number of Housekeepers on the unit from one, to two. If there are four patients leaving on the same day, that is 10 hours’ worth of cleaning to be done. Plus we still need to clean inside the rooms where patients are.”
“There has also been the introduction of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – which keeps us all safe, but is a challenge to deal with in itself.”
“I remember in April, on one of the hottest days of the year, I was wearing full PPE – a gown, visor, gloves, apron, face mask – and having to do a deep clean of a bedroom. I was absolutely drenched in sweat when I finished!”
“As a Housekeeper, you also go in to the rooms of the patients and often they want to have a chat with you. It has been noticeable that they have been more lonely at this time – as patients are only allowed to have one visitor per day. But then you have the challenge of trying to speak to them with a facemask on – which is hard.”
“I think wearing PPE will be the ‘new normal’ for us now though – both as a Housekeeper, and in general. There is still a long road to go, and the most important thing is to keep everyone safe.”
“Until we find a vaccine, we need to take the utmost care – and wearing a mask is a simple thing we can all do to protect other people. I wear a facemask when I am out at the shops too, it is so important that we keep to the guidelines and protect other people.”
Q: Have you seen any silver linings to this unprecedented situation?
A: “There has certainly been a lot of kindness throughout this time. We have definitely seen an increase in the generosity of people. We had the urgent appeal for PPE – and we are very well stocked with that now – but there have also been the thoughtful, nice gifts as well. Supporters have brought in chocolates, cakes, hand creams and other goodies in care packages for the staff.”
“Supporters want to show their appreciation for people working on the healthcare frontline, and that is really special.”
“We’ve also had over a hundred sets of scrubs sewn for the Inpatient Unit staff – and that has been so needed and appreciated. The scrubs have really come in useful, and the nurses and nursing assistants have all been wearing them.”
“It prompted me to buy myself a new sewing machine a few weeks ago as well! I have been getting back to sewing – and have made a few facemasks for staff at the Hospice, and have a few more requests from colleagues on the go. The latest one is for my granddaughter though – she picked out material for a new dress for her dolly! So I will be sewing that for her in my spare time too.”