Hidden hospital heroes: COVID-19 unit cleaners

Eau Claire (WQOW) – When it comes to keeping things clean throughout the pandemic – we all have been wiping away worry. But there are some who had to suit up and take it to the next level while facing the virus head-on.

“We’re all in this together, it’s everybody in this health care system that puts themselves at risk in some sort of way that we perform our jobs,” said Kandy Ebert, the director of environmental services at HSHS St. Joseph’s and Sacred Heart Hospitals.

These are the hidden heroes at the hospital who are cleaning, disinfecting and washing every inch of the COVID-19 rooms.

Joyce Kopsell is one of those hidden heroes. She said that at the beginning it was stressful and intimidating but she was determined to not be afraid of the tasks at hand.

“I think for a lot of housekeepers it was a little overwhelming,” Kopsell said. “Because you were going to have to wear some PPE but you’re not used to and the protocol for how to put that on and how to take that off and how to do it properly. You have all your supplies before entering that COVID room because you wouldn’t be able to go back out and get something if you happen to forget one.”

Ebert did see staff leave at the start of the pandemic.

“I had a colleague that wanted to work but because of her health, was at high risk because of some pre-existing illness that she had and she actually left work right when things were closing down,” Ebert said. “I had another colleague that instantly said ‘I can’t do this’ and took a furlough”

The pressure started to mount as the number of cases started to climb

“They get concerned because, is it going to stop? As the numbers climb, the intensity of being able to clean adequately of these very sick individuals,” Ebert said. “And then cleaning for other patients that have other illnesses because just like every other hospital or business we have a staffing structure and those staffing are limited. We don’t have a lot of people waiting in the wings ready to help.”

But as the work started to feel constant – Kopsell found a special reason to keep cleaning.

“Sine there are no visitors allowed you almost were the visitor,” Kospell said. “They’re excited to see you because they can talk and they can visit. I just try to make the day best for our patients here.”

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