HELENA — Hospitals are more than just doctors and nurses. It takes a large team with varying responsibilities to respond to a pandemic.
Of the more than 1,700 employees at St. Peter’s Health in Helena, 53 are with Environmental Services (EVS) and tasked with cleaning the facility.
EVS aide Maggie Andridge says being a hospital they were already following a lot of cleaning procedures required for COVID. “We’re doing everything we can to prevent the spread. We’re trying to do everything that we can to take the extra precaution here at work and in the community,” said Andridge. “It’s why our department is here. We made sure that it is cleaned and disinfected so there isn’t exposure of any infections."
As of the morning of December 4th, 23 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 at St. Peter's Health. Six patients were being treated in the Intensive Care Unit.
EVS plays a critical role in the care of all patients. Many hospital patients have weakened immune systems due to their condition or treatment.
Cancer patients are in the higher risk group for a severe reaction to COVID. But cancer doesn’t take a break and patients need to continue to receive treatment.
Just like most hospital workers, EVS are feeling the stress of the pandemic. Coworkers have been catching the virus in the community or needing to quarantine as a COVID contact. With a reduced workforce, staff have been working overtime and covering shifts to make sure proper cleaning is done.in turn more people in the hospital are protected.
“I can say with no uncertainty that the stress across the hospital has been palpable,” said EVS Aide Jake Cunningham. “We do have some employees that are hitting overtime. We have some that are coming in on their days off. It’s just something that has to come with the territory. Yes it adds stress, but we’re doing the best we can and try to make sure nobody else gets sick.”
Another key non-medical staff member right now are the team that are manning all entrances to screen people entering the facility for COVID.
The work of COVID screeners makes sure people who might be sick or need treatment for the virus aren’t inadvertently exposing others, especially at-risk patients.
“We’ve got places where primary care happens and people that are well are coming in for the care that they need and our goal is trying to keep those that are going to those appointments safe,” said Table Screener Cody Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum works as a pharmacist for St. Peter’s and has been helping with screening people entering the building during the pandemic. He says he is proud to be helping in any way he can right now just like the hundreds of other employees with St. Peter’s.
St. Peter’s Administration emphasizes it takes a team to deliver health care. The nutrition services team keeps patients and staff nourished. The laboratory team has been instrumental in testing operations.
Some days are hard, some are even worse; but staff are committed to protecting and caring for their neighbors when they need it.
“I look at it as the battle is not over,” said Cunningham. “We have these small fights that we win, some that we lose. But the battle is not over. I choose not to celebrate until there is a day when we are completely free. That we can go back to our everyday lives. I will celebrate on that day. But until then it’s just another fight.”