Keeping the hospital clean

DAVAO. Ruby Jean Esqueja, a housekeeper frontliner at Southern Philippines Medical Center. (Photo by Sittie Rohaina Saban-Manalao)

DURING this time of coronavirus disease pandemic, nurses and doctors easily popped in our minds when talking about health care heroes. But there is also an occupation inside the hospital that works in the background who deserves every recognition.

Just like the medical health workers, housekeeping frontliners play an important role inside the hospital in preventing contamination. They ensure the cleanliness of the hospital facility and employ safety protocols designed to keep patients, health care workers, and visitors protected from the unseen enemy.

Ruby Jean Esqueja, 33, a housekeeper at Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC), said in the last two months, the hospital environment has changed when coronavirus disease (Covid-19) swept the city.

As a housekeeper, she is tasked to do sanitization and maintain cleanliness in the hospital's facilities. Despite the apparent risk, she comes to the hospital every day to do her job.

Esqueja has been working at SPMC for more than three years. When the ward where she was assigned to was transformed into an isolation extension for Covid-19 patients, they also began to adhere to safety protocols.

"Dako og changes kay katong usual nga patient namin kay makagawas sulod mi sa Ilang kwarto anytime mi manglimpyo. Pero karon limit amoang exposure labaw na pag positive ang patient... Although naka PPE (personal protective equipment) mi, giingnan mi sa infection control nga limit lang mi musulod sa room sa positive (A lot has changed in how we do things. Before it is easy for us to go in and out of the patient's room to clean but now, even when we wear a full PPE gear, we still have to limit our exposure from Covid-19 patients as advised by the infection control team)," Esqueja said.

After hearing the news of Covid-19 from other countries, it made her apprehensive to continue her job.

The fear of catching the disease grew when a patient was admitted to the hospital and housed in the pay ward she was assigned in.

"Kulba siyempre nadunggan na nato sa lain nasod na ing-ani labaw na sa Wuhan, China nga ing-ana ang nahitabo. Unya naa na'y case sa Pilipinas... Siyempre trabaho man jud namo so wala mi mahimo. Kulba nihilak ko (It was nerve wracking especially after knowing what happened in Wuhan, China. But this is my job, I can't do anything about it. I cried out of anxiety)," she shared.

While the majority of the population have safely secured themselves inside their residences to prevent from getting infected, the housekeepers, along with other frontliners, bravely confront the virus armed with their disinfectants and cleaning materials.

Every shift, they clean the hallways and disinfect the areas they are assigned to. Their duty is usually two days morning, two days afternoon, and two days night then after that it is their day off. Despite the uncomfortable feeling when wearing their PPEs, they have to endure it the whole shift to stay protected.

Whenever a patient is discharged, they have to implement strict health safety measures. Before they go inside, the room is misted first with a cleaning chemical and left for 15 minutes. After that, they go inside and start cleaning the room in full PPE gear.

When something needs to be cleaned, they just wait for a call from medical personnel. They also disinfect the things inside the room before disposing of the garbage to ensure that the room is sanitized.

Amidst the pandemic, Esqueja had to sacrifice her time with her family to keep them safe. For two months now, she has not physically seen her mother and her 11-year-old daughter. When Mother's Day came, she was not able to celebrate it with them. Her daughter has kept on asking when she will be home but just like many who are away from their families, we cannot say how long we will be away.

But they continue to communicate with one another, thanks to technology.

Being a housekeeping staff in a Covid-19 referral hospital, she also experienced her fair share of being discriminated.

She remains thankful of how the hospital is taking care of them. They are given food, accommodation, and vitamins.

Esqueja, just like many frontliners in the hospitals, has to endure a lot of things amid the Covid-19 pandemic. At the same time, they continue to risk their lives to not only make sure that Covid-19 patients are attended to properly, but they also ensure that food is still on the table for their family, a house to live in, and bills are paid.


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