“Covid-19 at work was like an action movie” – Vincent Rossouw
Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH) values self-reflections to enable employees to take a step back, reflect on the current COVID-19 situation, integrate learnings, plan for the future and celebrate both personal and professional accomplishments. The employee who will reflect this week is Vincent Rossouw, the Head of Department for Support Services at Groote Schuur Hospital.
Vincent has worked at GSH for the past 37 years, and as the Head of Department, he has 1 054 employees at the hospital whom he has to manage. “The purpose of Support Services is to support service delivery, promote efficiency and continually improve the delivery of health care in a safe and healthy way. In this case here at Groote Schuur Hospital, it is the patient [who comes first] and we as the support staff must ensure that we fulfil this mandate,” is how Vincent describes leading a department which includes Environmental Hygiene Services, Facilities Management, Linen Management and Food Services.
“During December 2019, I heard about COVID-19 on television and I told my son it will never come to us. Then a few months later it was here at Groote Schuur Hospital and we had to make sure we were prepared. Being part of the executive [management structure] meant I was part of the planning committee at the hospital. Our team is well led by the Chief Executive Officer, Dr Bhavna Patel. We met daily to make sure we had plans in place not just for all our patients but also for our staff,” recalls Vincent.
There had to be different initiatives implemented and Vincent names a few, “We had a cleaning team in the different sections at the hospital to decontaminate areas, security [services] was expanded to control entry [points] into the hospital since no visitors were allowed, more linen was needed because everyone was wearing scrubs in COVID-19 areas. In the food services department different plates were purchased. The Facilities Management assisted with Covid-19 markings and sanitising stations at the hospital. They were also involved with the planning and building of a new testing centre for COVID-19 testing.”
COVID-19 has taught all of us many lessons, and for Vincent it was that, “We can do more with less. There [are] so many unnecessary meetings. We pulled together and were able to work as a Groote Schuur Hospital family achieve our goals during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During this extraordinary situation of COVID-19 we needed emotional mechanisms to make things easier. “When COVID-19 started everyone was nervous. Staff were scared, and as the head of the department I had to calm [them]. I did it by being honest with them, engage with staff via WhatsApp and [through] managers so that they are updated with exactly what [was] happening at the hospital as far as Covid-19. They started to trust management and would share [their feelings] with them. Due to staff knowing more about COVID-19 and feeling safe they had no problem going to work in a COVID-19 ward. Personal Protective Equipment was available for staff. Emotional support was available from the Wellness team at the hospital for individual and group counselling.”
“COVID-19 is still with us and it’s important that people continue social distancing, wear [their] masks and keep it plain and simple when interacting with others,” added Vincent. “COVID-19 at work was like an action movie, with things moving very quickly, with the script changing daily, but you had to adapt,” is how Vincent summarised his COVID-19 experience at GSH.
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