two masked healthcare workers facing the camera
Luzminda Ardo and Mila Alonzo, Environmental Services

Housekeeping: The hidden infection fighters

When Mila Alonzo goes in to clean a patient room, she tries to imagine that it’s her mother, father or brother who will be occupying the room. It's a scenario that helps her put a human face on an often overwhelming situation.

Though doctors and nurses often appear in the forefront in the fight against COVID-19, it’s the environmental services team (housekeeping) that plays a crucial role in cleaning, sanitizing and controlling infection within the hospital, directly impacting the patient experience. 

“Right now my job is stressful, but it doesn’t help me if I worry about things, I try to control what I can,” Mila says. “It’s important to deal with the reality we face right now and do the best job that we can.”

In many ways, the daily work this team does hasn’t changed – they just do more of it now.

“We focus on ‘high-touch’ areas like doorknobs and light switches, cleaning them many times a day,” says Mila. 

And once a COVID-19 patient has been discharged from a room, the team dons protective gear and prepares for a “double terminal clean.”

“Where we used to clean a room once after a patient leaves, we now double down to clean it thoroughly once, and then a second time,” explains Stephen Cook, manager, support services.

Redeployment means more training 

While areas like the COVID-19 Assessment Centre and staff screening zones have opened up, other areas of the hospital have ramped down services or closed entirely. And that means that staff in those areas have been redeployed to environmental services.

“We’ve trained between 25-30 redeployed staff over the past few weeks,” says Stephen. “We’re giving them a crash course in how to use cleaning chemicals safely, and partnering them with a more experienced employee to work in tandem in places like the emergency department, screening zones and respiratory areas where more support is needed.”

Like Mila, her colleague Luzminda Ardo struggles with feelings of fear and stress when she leaves her home to come to work, but she knows that the work she does is so important.

“I know I have to fight those feelings so I keep myself busy by doing my job and making a cleaner environment for the benefit of everyone.”

She's part of a resilient group who is used to dealing with change.

“Our team really shines despite adverse circumstances,” says Stephen. “When the situation calls for it, our staff is very flexible and always willing to help out. They know they play a critical role in the operations of the hospital and it’s nice to see that acknowledged by the hospital and by the community.”