All across our province, we are hearing heartwarming and inspiring tales of healthcare workers’ bravery, commitment and personal sacrifice during COVID-19. While we usually hear about the courageous nurses, doctors and personal support workers treating patients first hand, we don’t often hear about the incredible work going on behind the scenes. Housekeeping staff, dietary workers, laundry aides and other essential, frontline workers are showing up every day to keep everything moving smoothly, and the Support Services and Centralized Scheduling team at Timmins and District Hospital is no exception.
The Support Services department at TADH consists of 5 teams: environmental services, dietary, cafeteria, laundry and centralized scheduling. Since the pandemic struck, every single person on each of these teams has had their jobs turned completely upside down.
During the first few months, any team member who had training in another department had to be moved around to compensate for the high number of staff requiring time off given the situation. The Support Services team was switched around within multiple departments – housekeeping to laundry, screening and dietary, laundry to housekeeping and screening, cafeteria to dietary, dietary to centralized scheduling. “This process was hectic, and staff felt a high level of stress due to learning new job on top of the COVID-19 processes being implemented”, explains Ginette Morin, Manager of Support Services and Centralized Scheduling at TADH.
Housekeepers are fundamentally responsible for making sure patients are in the cleanest environments; they are absolutely critical when it comes to fighting this pandemic. By eliminating germs and waste, people can rest easy knowing that an emergency trip to the hospital is as safe as can be. “They were some of the original frontliners – making sure that those coming in to get tested didn’t have to worry about the test results of the prior patient,” says Ms. Morin. “Colleagues also feel safer with the constant, extra cleaning, and particularly the handling of isolation rooms.” Due to changes in sanitization processes and the need for extra cleaning, the environmental services team has been putting in extended hours on top of working in restricting PPE for most of their shifts.
The dietary team has also gone through many changes. The pandemic has affected much of the supply chain, and there have been challenges with food and stock not being available. Still, the team has gone the extra mile in ensuring patients still have menu choices on a daily basis. “They have been an invaluable asset by being able to provide routine and a familiar face to patients who can’t see loved ones due to the safety restrictions.” More concerned about their patients than the looming threats, the dietary staff have kept morale high throughout. They are always eager to find the safest ways to enter the rooms of vulnerable patients to make sure everyone has been fed, no matter their ailments. One staff member even brought in homemade spaghetti to an Italian patient to make her feel more like home.
The cafeteria has remained open for the hospital staff, allowing them to still get their Timmies at the beginning of every shift and providing an important element of normalcy to their days. The team’s dedication and positive attitude has kept both bellies and hearts well-nourished “Never once did a cafeteria staff member stop serving in a happy and timely manner, despite the many new precautions they have had to adapt to. Our cafeteria crew continues to treat everyone who walks through like an old friend, no matter staff member or patient.” This team has also played the lead role in distributing the many food donations throughout the organization.
The laundry aids have assumed so much extra laundry. No longer only concerned with linens and towels, they have taken on the mighty (and heavy) task of washing staff scrubs hospital-wide to keep potentially contaminated clothing within the confines of the hospital. They are also taking care of all in-patients’ personal laundry. “This is far above and beyond the usual loads, and I know our colleagues really appreciate the extra efforts” says Ms. Morin.
The centralized scheduling team has been working multiple extra hours to organize all departments and modify schedules based on shifting needs brought on by COVID-19. “As you can imagine, there have been an extremely high number of replacements needed throughout the departments. They have been working closely with Employee Health to maintain updates of the staff and needs”. Based on these reports, the clerks replace those who need to rest, and keep staffing levels adequate so patients remain tended and everyone feels safe. These team members also provide much-needed support to their peers by posting inspirational signs and posters, and taking the time to lend an ear and listen to everyone during these tumultuous times.
Despite the many and frequent changes to their work and routines and the uncertain situation that they walk into every day, each and every team member has bravely jumped in headfirst. “All the staff stepped up to plate to help each other and their commitment to the hospital was formidable. These groups were able to adapt with all challenges and changes that came along during such a difficult and frightening time,” explains Ms. Morin.
Support Services staff have connected patients with their family members through Facetime and telephones. They deliver any and all personal items to patients brought in by family members. They water patients’ flowers. Perhaps most impactful, they are the familiar faces patients are accustomed to seeing on a daily basis. They take time to talk to them throughout what is certainly a very lonely period. All this while ensuring the health and safety of all parties.
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. Patients’ families give endless praise and show constant gratitude. The broader community has showered Support Services staff with numerous food donations, including pizza, cookies, sports drinks and even full meals!
It would be wrong to say that one of these groups is more essential than the other. Each of these 5 teams and every single team member plays a vital role in keeping their community health and safe. We thank them for their hard work and dedication – you are true Heroes at Work!
As we can all appreciate, it’s important to spread positivity and share good news stories during times of crisis. Focusing on the positive and celebrating successes, no matter how small, helps us come together (at a safe distance!) to navigate difficult times as a community. We know Ontario’s workers and organizations are out there doing amazing things. This is why we’re recognizing some of them as our weekly Hero at Work. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.