Behind-the-scenes crew deliver patient-centred care at Canterbury Hospital.
Canterbury is like a second family for three of the hospital’s long-serving indigenous employees.
Bruce McKenny, 66, who lives in nearby Belmore, has worked for the hospital for the past 25 years. He’s among the 19 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders employed by the hospital. He leads the 42-strong Environmental Services team.
“I’ve got a multicultural crew. It includes six indigenous staff. And, another two who are trainees.
“We are a close-knit group. There are so many teams who keep the hospital running and we’re one of them. We’re an important cog in a big wheel,” he said.
Bruce oversees the cleaners, who ensure patient rooms are spick and span, and the porters who transport patients in beds, or in wheelchairs, to and from their rooms.
His crew is also responsible for ordering medical supplies and equipment, the daily delivery of linen and stores for the wards and maintaining the hospital’s fleet cars.
“We’re behind-the-scenes. But patient care is still our focus. Patients come here sick and we want to send them home better. We are all part of their journey,” he said.
He takes a hands-on approach.
“Most days are busy. A lot relies on teamwork. I lend a hand on the floor too. Everyone helps to do the all the jobs that keep the hospital running like clockwork,” he said.
During his lengthy career at the hospital, he’s witnessed many changes in practices, equipment, technology and the diversity not only of the community the hospital serves but of the staff who work there.
“We all respect each other. The indigenous staff appreciate that the hospital marks NAIDOC Day, Close the Gap and Sorry Day. It’s important,” he said.
A space has also been earmarked for a cultural garden at the entrance to the hospital. It’ll showcase the indigenous history of the local area and be a space for staff, patients and their families to share.
“It’s a way of respecting Aboriginal culture and to keep it alive,” Bruce said.
His colleague Sharlene Lee, 55, has strong family connections to Canterbury.
“My mother worked here for 32 years. I had two of my three children here. And, I started working here in 1995,” she said.
As the team’s compliance and audit officer, Sharlene’s priorities are to check that the ED, wards, operating theatres and patient rooms have been thoroughly cleaned.
“I make sure that patient’s rooms are spotless. I look at the whole room – from the bed, the bedside cabinet, to the floors, walls, windows, air conditioning vents and roof.
“If my mum or dad came in here, I would want to know that the room is clean. And, I expect it to be like that for everyone else’s family too.
“It’s a team effort… because without the cleaners the rooms and wards wouldn’t be ready for the patients,” she said.
And, that’s the important role Charlie Brown, 65, performs. He’s worked at the hospital for the past 12 years, first as a porter and now as a cleaner four days a week.
“I thought I’d give it a go and I’m still here. I look after the Outpatients Department. I clean floors, the toilets, take out the garbage. When you’re working with doctors in a busy ward and people are sick… you have to show empathy and understanding,” he said.
He has a positive outlook each day.
“I love meeting people and chatting to them. I say hello to everyone. I can talk with anyone from the patients to Kiel [Harvey] who manages the hospital. I don’t look at him as the boss, I look at him as a person. And, I’m a people person.
“I love what I’m doing. And, if you enjoy your work you’ll have a good day and a good life.”