Meet a key player in protecting patients and workers during a pandemic: Francisco Vega Jamaica of Environmental Services

Francisco Vega Jamaica

Photo: Yuri Markarov, Medical Media

By Selma Al-Samarrai

(July 22, 2020) – Francisco Vega Jamaica is responsible for cleaning 11 patient rooms in the Acute Care area of the Emergency Department (ED) at St. Michael’s Hospital, along with the trauma bay, the nursing stations, and some common patient areas and staff areas.

It’s a large and important role, made all the more essential in the face of a pandemic.

“We are here for the patients — this is our only job: to make them safe,” he said. “We can’t take anything for granted during this time and we have to clean every single item inside the ED.”

In March, The Environmental Services (EVS) teams across Unity Health Toronto made big changes to their protocols to adapt to COVID-19. The team assumed that every patient who came through their doors had the virus, which meant more frequent cleaning. Cleaning procedures were enhanced to include changing cleaning products to bleach, frequently cleaning high-touch surfaces, and updating procedures and processes.

These change had a significant impact on the cleaning team in the busy ED at St. Michael’s, including Jamaica.

Other recent changes to the EVS team’s cleaning practices include an increase in audits, continuous assessment of the efficacy of cleaning tools, and more frequent removal of waste. In certain areas, some furniture was removed to make the space easier to clean. There was also focused training on the proper wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) during cleaning, and on the importance of EVS staff changing their PPE before cleaning the next area.

“The ED is a fast-paced place and there’s a lot of pressure to go faster,” said Heather Fletcher, Senior Director of Food Services, Patient Transport and Environmental Services at Unity Health Toronto. “We have a focus on ‘clean and disinfect’ which means we strive to remove the debris fully, not just disinfect surfaces.”

Jamaica said his sense of responsibility to his job ties back to a personal experience. Jamaica had a family member who was ill and required frequent visits to the hospital, and his health rested on two things: the care he received in hospital, and the clean state of the hospital environment.

“The ED is the first point of contact for patients who come to us with an issue, so we want to make sure that the space is thoroughly disinfected and ready for them and that they’re here to get treated, not get impacted by something else,” said Jamaica.

If you ask Fletcher to describe the key to better cleaning practices at Unity Health, she will quickly point to her team. “It’s our people! It’s through the elbow grease they put into their work, their attention, support and cooperation that we are able to get this important job done during this time.”