Ex-cleaner in hospital blast

A FORMER Ipswich Hospital cleaner has today spoken out claiming that cleanliness has gone downhill since contract cleaners took over.Although Carol Bennett worked at the Heath Road site nine years ago she has been back several times since, both as a patient and visitor and said some of the dirt she has seen there would never have been allowed under the old cleaning system.

A FORMER Ipswich Hospital cleaner has today spoken out claiming that cleanliness has gone downhill since contract cleaners took over.

Although Carol Bennett worked at the Heath Road site nine years ago she has been back several times since, both as a patient and visitor and said some of the dirt she has seen there would never have been allowed under the old cleaning system.

Her comments come following the death of John McBride from hospital superbug MRSA featured in the Evening Star earlier this month.

His widow Phyllis of Coltsfoot Road, Ipswich said that the area around his bed was so dirty that she had asked for a bucket to clean it herself.

Mrs Bennett, who also lives in Chantry, said she worked at the hospital for three to four years and at that time there was a strict regime and supervisors would not tolerate any dust or dirt at all.

The 51-year-old said: "Everyone knew us as the pink ladies.

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"It used to go on a rota system. One day we would do dry dusting, lift the flowers up and do the bedside cupboards and had to do the sinks everyday.

"We also had to dry mop under the beds one day and the next we would wash and buff the floors up.

"The public toilets used to be spotless and the ward toilets had to be done every single day."

Mrs Bennett had to give up work due to a back injury but said that while the pink ladies were there the corridors gleamed and supervisors would wipe surfaces with their hands to check the work of the cleaners.

She said: "If there was dust anywhere we used to get pulled up really badly."

She added that each cleaner was given a designated area and was summoned to clean it if anyone was sick or the floor was soiled in any way.

Recent stories have revealed other patients have complained about blood spots on the floor but after complaining to staff had been told that cleaners do not work weekends. Pensioner Pat Nevard was so disgusted with the state of the hospital when her husband John was in there that she left stickers to alert cleaners to problem areas.

She said she had seen blood in the corridor on the way in to her husband's ward and despite telling staff three times it was still there it was still not cleaned up.

Mrs Bennett said she too had seen dried blood on the floor in the accident and emergency department just before Christmas.

She said: "They say there are 8,000 people a day going through the hospital.

"It should not matter if there are 20,000 people. If everyone had their own designated area to clean they should do it.

"If they are cutting back on cleaners they are putting people's lives at risk."

Hospital bugs like MRSA can also be rife out in the community and Mrs Bennett said she had been shocked to see nurses in uniform outside the hospital and less and less doctors wearing white coats inside which she feared could also help to spread the germs.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for the hospital said that each ward has a designated cleaning team and that despite some apparent confusion there are cleaners available 24/7. She said that all staff should be aware of this but sometimes there may be confusion because the regular cleaning staff only work Monday to Friday but there are always specialist cleaners around all day every day who can be contacted on a hotline number that all staff should know.

Ms Rowsell said: "The system is in place so there should not be any issue.

"Whether it is because this is such a huge organisation that we have not got the message across to some staff, but all members of staff should know."

Ms Rowsell added that the chief executive of the hospital did regular ward rounds to check the cleanliness of the site each week.

She said: "Each incident we hear of is taken very seriously.

"If we had limitless resources we would have people waiting to clean. But we are investing in more and we also are employing housekeepers and modern matrons and a huge focus of their role is cleanliness."

Ms Rowsell also said that there is a strict uniform policy where if staff are going out of the building they have to wear an outer coat that covers the whole of the uniform. She added that the staff were particularly vigilant of one another.

However she did point out that there are also many nurses and health workers who work in the community who wear uniforms.

n. Have you got a story to tell? Write to us at Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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