Huw Wooldridge and Dawn Moss from the Estates Team told us about their involvement in the COVID-19 response.
Can you explain your role and what it usually involves and where you were based?
The Estates Department provides maintenance, repair, improvement and engineering support across the entirety of the Trust. This work covers everything to do with the fabric and function of the buildings and wider estate that makes up BSUH. This can range from fitting a coat hanger to major overhauls of the utilities across our hospital sites. We often work out of sight of the public and other members of staff, in plant rooms, crawl spaces and workshops. These behind the scenes activities are key to keeping our patients and staff safe, our buildings operational and our estate in compliance with the law. We have two teams – one based at RSCH and the other at PRH each consisting of electrical, mechanical and building maintenance tradespeople.
How has your role had to change and adapt? Are you working in different areas than before?
Our team members were already working across all the areas of the Trust. The maintenance and repair requirements of our estate haven’t changed with the COVID-19 outbreak, but how we work in some areas definitely has. Now, ensuring that the works are carried out in a safe and timely manner includes taking advice from our clinical colleagues about how to work safely in areas where COVID-19 may be present. We strictly adhere to the new guidelines and the advice we are given, as we still have a requirement to access and work in all areas across BSUH.
What has been challenging?
As the need to care for patients with the virus began to grow, it became clear that there would need to be separate red and green zones across both main hospital sites, and this would involve partitioning existing spaces. The efforts that went into arranging these works at such short notice were substantial. Some of the materials that were required had to be sourced from far afield across the country because some of our normal suppliers had closed. On the other hand our efforts were met with a real willingness to help and some of our local suppliers re-opened specifically to provide us with what we needed.
The increase in patients requiring ventilators created the need to adjust and improve our medical gas systems. Such systems have a theoretical maximum but are not tested to that level as they are designed to operate with a good deal of ‘head room’ above the demand. We quickly needed to establish if our existing systems would be able to meet the new possible maximum demand to support ventilated patients. Following some very long evenings and non-existent weekends we were able to make changes to our medical gas systems, test them to their maximum design capacity and give assurances that we would be able to support the care of ventilated patients.
What achievements are you most proud of?
The best Estates systems in the world are worthless without the right team to operate them. That our team members have been able to keep our sites up and running, keep the programme of maintenance in place and help our colleagues prepare for the challenges of COVID-19 tells you a lot about them. The challenges of the past few months have been met with a real professionalism and a ‘can do’ attitude that we’re really proud of.
That approach has been reflected in the work required to create the new red and green zones across the Trust. The lead-in times were exceptionally short, but the changes were delivered with minimal disruption to clinical activity in the areas.