The environmental services (EVS) and transport teams diligently work behind the scenes to prevent the spread of infection within El Camino Health hospitals. Now, their important work is brought to the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. In some ways, their day is no different than it was before. They are trained to handle extremely dangerous infections, even those riskier than COVID-19, but the teams have been actively working to learn more about this virus to provide the most effective services possible.
“Every day, they hold their courage in their hands and come to work despite their fears and they do their jobs," said Lorna Koep, director of environmental services and patient transport. "And this job doesn’t have a lot of glamour to it. It is often overlooked. It is an honor for me to work alongside them.”
In addition to having their temperatures and symptoms checked at the beginning of each shift, as with all hospital employees, the team has been mindful when putting on and taking off personal protective equipment (PPE) and using advanced technology to thoroughly clean patient rooms. Part of the cleaning protocol for COVID-19 and other isolation rooms is for supervisors/leads to use an ATP device to check patient rooms for signs of bacteria on surfaces. Following a manual cleaning, the supervisor/lead swabs the room and uses an ATP monitoring system to detect if any organic matter remains after cleaning. If any deficiencies are detected, the surface is re-cleaned. Finally, a UVD robot which uses ultraviolent waves is used for a final disinfection of the space. The robot spends five minutes on each side of the bed and then five minutes in the bathroom for a total of 20 minutes per room.
The EVS and transport teams took refresher courses and follow all guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Despite the learning process and stressful situation, the team just rolled with it with a smile on their face," said Paul Wanish, manager of environmental and patient transport at El Camino Health’s Los Gatos hospital. "They walk through it with dignity, grace and professionalism and they support each other.” When the first patient with COVID-19 was admitted, Paul suited up and worked side by side with his team. He wanted to show that he supports them and trusts the security measures put in place.
The transport team has always had a close working relationship with their co-workers on the clinical side. Today, the transport team takes extra measures to ensure patients move around between departments and discharge home safely. For high risk patients, a nurse accompanies the transporter and patient to help answer any clinical questions and be there to provide an extra level of care in the event of an emergency.
"Throughout the pandemic, silos have been broken down. There has been great teamwork in our department and across all departments throughout the organization, from the top down," said Lorna. "We are getting used to our new normal, the fear has not gone away, but the team is adjusting. We are all in it together and there is a level of trust here.”
“EVS is often an afterthought – when someone wants something clean – but more so today, we stand together and have walked through the fear. We feel part of a bigger team,” added Lorna.