Maintaining LHSC through COVID-19

UH Team

Members of the maintenance team at University Hospital.

August 10, 2020

The maintenance teams at LHSC helped ensure everything was operational during the pandemic

The environment where patients are cared for is looked after by the Maintenance, Repair and Operations (MRO) team. This team of carpenters, electricians, locksmiths, millwrights, plumbers, steam fitters, controls technicians, refrigeration technicians, patient equipment technicians, and building engineers ensures the smooth and consistent operation of London Health Sciences Centre’s facilities. During COVID-19 pandemic, they provided support from helping set up screening stations to ensuring units that were to be used for cohorting COVID-19 positive patients were in top working order. They are helping ensure quality and safety for patients, staff and physicians every day. 

This team of 55 individuals is spread across University and Victoria hospitals. For Daniel Neaves, Manager in Facilities Management, “The work the team does is critical and behind the scenes. They support the environment the health care is provided in.” This includes the regular inspection of the HVAC systems, particularly important since the beginning of COVID-19, and ensuring they are in good working order. “They are making sure the systems are running at top performance,” Neaves explains.

VH Team

Members of the maintenance team at Victoria Hospital.

Preparing the rooms the COVID-19 patients were going to be cohorted in prior to their arrival was a top priority for the MRO team. Once the team knew the areas, they went in and ensured all the electrical, plumbing, doors and other systems were in good operational order. “The MRO team felt the staff and physicians had enough to deal with already with COVID-19, they didn’t need to worry about calling us to fix something,” explains David Cooper, one of the MRO coordinators at Victoria Hospital. 

The MRO staff continued to provide support throughout the pandemic including installing a sink for hand hygiene overnight in a space that was to be turned into a potential COVID-19 testing area. Cooper explains how one of the plumbers was tasked on a Friday afternoon with installing the sink in an office area at Victoria Hospital for the next morning. “He went out to a local hardware store, purchased the sink and all of  the supplies necessary to install it, including a pump to pump the water up a floor to the Tim Horton’s drain on the floor above and installed it. Other team assisted him and it was ready for operation the next morning,” says Cooper. 

Supplying power to the screening stations was another task the MRO team took on. For the staff entrance on the second floor of C Zone at Victoria Hospital, a power bar and extension cord was not going to work. The electrician sourced a cable tray, a rack to hold the electrical power cord, to run power to the
screening station in a safe manner preventing potential trips and falls as pedestrians with limited mobility, wheelchairs and stretchers that frequent the area. 

For the most part, the pandemic has meant business as usual for the MRO Team.  Jason Smith, the MRO coordinator at University Hospital, explains that although they are wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) more than usual and cleaning tools after every use. “It’s different in the amount of PPE we’re using,” he explains. “Our team is used to wearing PPE when they enter a room that has the precaution signs, but now it’s more frequent.” Smith gives an example of a locksmith who had to fix the sliding door of an ICU room that was falling inward. It required a team effort to help stabilize the door to fix it. The team accomplished this while wearing full PPE and then ensuring all their tools were cleaned. “We have to clean our tools all the time,” explains Smith.

While COVID-19 may mean more use of PPE, it also means fewer requests for painting rooms or hanging pictures. “Staff have been really great and our priorities as an organization have shifted,” says Neaves. The replacement of nurse call buttons is an example of the collaboration between the MRO team and staff. Nurse call buttons frequently just need to be replaced by unplugging the defective button from the wall and plugging in a new button. In order to preserve PPE, staff are taking the buttons from the MRO team members and plugging them into the walls themselves. 

“I’m proud of the work our team is doing to continue preventative maintenance and respond to calls to support our colleagues who are providing patient care,” says Neaves. The MRO team is helping ensure health-care workers are able to provide the care patients need, when and where they need it.