Dedicated housekeeping staff’s never-ending role

Jenny Gorringe and Robin Haydon-Brown, Eastbourne DGH
Jenny Gorringe and Robin Haydon-Brown, Eastbourne DGH

FOR most people, cleaning their own house is difficult enough. A weekly trot round with the hoover and an annual spring dusting.

Spare a thought then for the 165 housekeeping staff at the DGH.

On an average day the team cleans around 65,000 square metres of hospital space.

That is equivalent to roughly eight and a half Wembley football pitches.

And, much like painting the Forth Bridge or the Eiffel Tower, it is a never ending job.

Almost as soon as a ward is cleaned or a theatre washed down, it needs doing again.

It is a mammoth task and one, with infection control and hospital bugs regularly hitting the headlines, which comes with its own pressure.

Jane Gorringe, the trust facilities manager, says her department is well placed to meet the demands.

“I have a great team,” she said, “and one I am really proud of.

“They work very hard to make sure everything is as it should be and without them the hospital simply would not work.”

That work is as varied as the treatments available at the DGH.

Each ward has a dedicated coordinator who makes sure everything is running like clockwork, there is a small group of people who monitor the corridors making sure they are clean and in order and there is even a rapid response unit ready and willing to descend on any part of the hospital in need of a quick blitz.

As Mrs Gorringe explained, “If something goes wrong or a patient area needs cleaning they are sent straight away.

“The team is not sitting there waiting for jobs to do, they are busy undertaking a deep clean programme which is ongoing – but it is important we have a team which can tackle things quickly, especially in a place like a hospital.”

Her colleague, Robin Haydon-Brown, was quick to expand on the point. “The most difficult thing about what we do is unscheduled cleaning.

“They can come at any time – usually the most inappropriate moment.

“We have people chasing us to get in somewhere and get the beds clean and back in use and at times it can be a juggling act.

“It is important to free up the beds again as soon as possible but it is not unknown for us to have 12 beds in different areas on the hospital in need of attention at any one time.

“Last night, for example, we had 13 rooms to deal with between 5pm and 8pm. That is not uncommon.”

It isn’t just beds and wards the housekeepers clean. Theatres need deep cleaning regularly – as does just about every other nook and cranny on the site.

And, when bugs and infections do raise their ugly heads, the team has to use all its expertise to tackle the problem.

Different chemicals and products need to be used in different departments depending on the condition of the people in the beds, while colour coded mops and equipment help prevent cross contamination.

A storeman makes sure nowhere ever runs out and, as Mrs Gorringe revealed, the trust’s shopping list is enough to make even the most ardent home cleaner wince.

“Last year we used 2.5million litres of floor cleaner, 17,000 double sized jumbo toilet rolls and 204,000 packs of hand towels.

“It really is quite a big operation.”

But, if the scale of the work is flabbergasting, it is the little things which do just as much to make the housekeeping team such a valued cog in the DGH wheel.

Marie Frost (pictured), who works on Seaford Three Ward, is a typical housekeeper.

Bubbly, full of smiles and friendly, she is popular with patients and staff alike.

Mrs Gorringe says her staff get to know patients over time and go the extra mile to make their stay in hospital more bearable.

That can be fetching them a newspaper, making sure they are getting food they like or even just stopping for a chat.

Marie, it would appear, is a prime example of that hands on approach.

“I just love to be around people,” she said.

“I think they appreciate having someone to talk to who isn’t trying to do anything to them, just giving them a nice cup of tea and a bit of time.

“I love my job. It is nice to get to know patients and the rest of the staff on this ward treat me as one of the team.”

In fact, it goes deeper than that. One nurse tells me Marie is “the best housekeeper in the hospital” while another tells me how popular she is with the patients – not least for her cake baking skills.

But surely, if you spend all day cleaning and running round after others, people like Marie must dread going home and doing the chores?

“I am lucky,” she chuckles, with a laugh I suspect is as regular feature on the ward.

“I have a lovely husband who helps a lot.

“He is really nice and supportive – although,” she adds, “I did have to teach him to cook.”