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Sunday, 23 November 2014

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Keeping the Furness General Hospital clean for everyone

MILES of corridors, multiple toilets and emergency clean-ups are just some of the areas of responsibility for a Furness General Hospital Heavy Duty Team. For her latest article documenting her exclusive behind-the-scenes access at FGH, EMMA PRESTON spends the day with two of the hospital’s cleaning staff

IT isn’t often that a journalist gets to snap on a pair of rubber gloves and don an apron in the line of duty.

But as I prepare to join Peter Eccles and Ziggy Bateman, who make up one of Furness General Hospital’s Heavy Duty Teams, I am determined to pull my weight.

Unfortunately for me – albeit extremely fortunately for the hospital’s patients – both Peter and Ziggy have impeccably high standards.

And while they are kind enough to bite their tongues as they watch me clean the level six men’s toilet, I can’t help but notice as, mere minutes later, Peter sneaks back in to re-do my work.

Later, he reassures me it’s nothing personal.

“The standards in a hospital are as high as they come in terms of how clean it needs to be,” he tells me.

“Every job has to be done a certain way. There are quite strict procedures.”

Ziggy, meanwhile, is just keen to make sure we get them done right as soon as possible.

He says: “I hate it when something needs done. It plays on my mind.

“The toilets, especially, I want to get done before the visitors come in.

“I would hate them to come in and it be dirty, because that means I’m not doing my job properly.

“Plus you know from a personal point of view that you wouldn’t want to visit your family in a hospital that wasn’t clean.”

Peter, who has been doing the job for 13 years, and Ziggy, who started in December, form one of two Heavy Duty Teams at Furness General.

These teams are responsible for cleanliness across all the public areas in the hospital, and the pairs split the duties across the entire site, each having certain floors, areas or tasks they do each day.

Toilet-cleaning alone is a major element of that. Ziggy and Peter do half the hospital’s public area toilets three times a day.

Corridors, inside windows and signs outside the hospital, as well as picnic areas, display cabinets, carpets and bins are just some of their other regular cleaning tasks.

Ziggy says: “It’s very important, because everybody who comes into the hospital will have to go through these parts to get to the wards, and if people are walking through dirt here, they’re taking dirt on to the wards.”

Peter and Ziggy also work on a rapid-response basis, whereby they are called out to any emergency clean-ups needed in the hospital – from patients being sick in waiting areas to showers flooding.

Sometimes, when staffing is short, one member of a Heavy Duty Team will be sent to join the domestics responsible for manning individual wards, leaving the other solely responsible for their huge workload.

Ziggy says: “There’s always something different happening to break things up. You never know what’s going to happen or where you’re going to be needed.

“I love my job.

“There’s a lot of variety, I love the people and I work in great surroundings.”

Peter and Ziggy are given a list of their regular jobs at the start of every day, but are also counted on to take the initiative about what needs doing.

“Our job’s never, ever done,” Ziggy tells me, “there’s always something to clean.

“We’re keeping our eyes open all the time.

“If you’re on your way to another job and you see something, if you’ve got the right equipment you stop and do it there and then.

“If not you go and get the right equipment and go back.

“We’ve got to try to fit everything in, and it’s hard.”

Today, having managed to make it through their list of compulsory duties, Ziggy and Peter decide to tackle a task they are expected to fit in whenever they can.

One armed with cleaning fluid, the other with polish, they begin working their way along the hospital floors, sprucing up the skirting which borders the hospital’s miles and miles of corridors.

It’s back-breaking work, and I have long-since given up trying to get involved.

Ziggy says: “I don’t think people always realise how much you do.

“We can be on our hands and knees for hours, and you go for miles.”

Both men are understandably tired after a long and gruelling shift, which sees them start at 7.30am to prepare the hospital before staff and visitors arrive.

Yet both say it is their love of the hospital and their jobs that keeps them going.

Peter says: “We all take a great deal of pride in what we do.

“We’ve got to set a very high level for ourselves.”

But it is more than just their own words that makes me realise what a vital part of the hospital’s workings Peter and Ziggy are.

As we walk through FGH, it seems everyone who passes wants to chat to them.

And every single person I am introduced to reiterates the same message, that what Peter and Ziggy do is completely underestimated despite being absolutely priceless in their colleagues’ eyes.

Reflecting on these accolades, Ziggy says: “If you didn’t have a clean hospital, you wouldn’t have a hospital.

“That’s how I look at it.”

Peter adds: “When I first started the job I used to say I was only a cleaner.

“One day someone turned round to me and said, ‘I don’t want to hear you say that, because your job is as important as anyone else in that hospital’.

“We’re all here to do the same job, and that’s to make sure lives are saved – it’s the way you contribute to everyone being able to do that that’s important.”

Have your say

Does anyone remember those good old days when hospitls were automaticaly thought of as clen.And no one had to shout it from the roof tops.Heavey Duty Teams were unheard of because the normal cleaners employed by the NHS got on with it.Mind this was in the days before Clinical Nurse Managers or whatever they are now.And Nurses did not have Degrees.Now here,s a little gem for cleanliness get rid of rubber gloves on the ward and wash hands after each patient or task and lo and behold unwanted infections will drop.This is from my wife she was a real nuse for 35 years.

Posted by Barrow Lad on 11 July 2012 at 07:36

I just spent two weeks on Ward 7 of FHG after a somewhat stupid accident with a bull
Anyway i have to say, every member of staff on these wards are incredible , and believe you me i was not the best patient that's for sure, but there care is second to none, and not just the nurses , all of the staff are wonderful caring people who really do CARE.
How they do the job is beyond me but thankfully they do and from the bottom of my heart i say thank you to them all , the nurses, and domestics, the cleaners, all play a vital part to anyone's recovery

Posted by Richard Nicholls on 28 May 2012 at 17:30

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