Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/509/3390
Hospital domestic workers
Staff shortages cause stress and anger
"A SUPERVISOR on a ward, serving meals to 36 patients, got bleeped. 'Can you come to Suite 1? We've got a flood.' She said: 'Do you want me to serve patients' meals or deal with the flood?'
A domestic worker at a Midlands hospital spoke to the socialist
We're so short-staffed, supervisors cover on the wards. Once there, they can't sort other problems out. Luckily security managed to deal with it, but this is the sort of situation they get lumbered with.
Management are desperate. Cleaners used to have a full week's training and be taught all the health and safety issues. Now they get put with somebody for one or two days, then they're on their own.
Staff burn themselves on food trolleys because they've not been trained properly.
A new starter mopped straight across the corridor instead of half-way. A nurse came past, went head over heels and now she's off with a dislocated hip.
We've got to reach 85% cleaning targets by November, 95% by December. Staff get warned when there's an audit and extra staff are put on, because if we don't achieve those targets, the supervisor could lose their job.
Yes, things look cleaner, but at the cost of our staff. We have a brilliant new system to fight infection. But because we're short-staffed, we're fetching toilet cleaners to serve teas and hiding it from the matrons, though they haven't time to change their uniforms.
The patients all say how hard the girls work. The domestics never stop and they're red raw all the time. I've been on an acute ward today and there were three nurses and a trainee. They're running about like crazy. They're as bushed as we are.
We've got to achieve these results but it's so stressful. I come home every night and I feel like my heart's going to pop and my head is whirling. It's just too much.
Management wants to get new patients in that quickly, nurses haven't time to clear rooms out. We're getting to the rooms and they're not ready to clean.
That has a knock-on effect all through the hospital. The patient is in A&E or Coronary Care waiting to go onto the ward to free up an emergency bed. At this time of year, beds are never empty.
We just serve the meals and Sodexho cook them. They are on far less pay than us. Ours isn't brilliant money but we get time and a half on Saturday and double time on Sunday. They're trying to stop that now and it will cause a right stink.
I'm on family tax credit but get £10 a month car parking charges. We're also up in arms because those whose hours have been cut are on protected pay.
If we work overtime it cancels out our protected pay, so we're working overtime for nothing.
This used to be a really happy place to work but the staff are not happy because they want to do their best and they can't."
In The Socialist 8 November 2007:
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign