Shyhien Cousins, a hospital assistant (commonly referred to as porter) at Toronto Western Hospital, loves the new Epic system. It equips her with all the information she needs for patient transports so she feels confident in her job. (Photo: UHN)
For Support Services Week, November 21 to 27, University Health Network (UHN) is going behind-the-scenes of the organization to celebrate the staff who make up Support Services within the Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations (FM-PRO) Department, as well as Materials Management.
From housekeeping staff to building operators, they are important members of TeamUHN.
Together, these staff members keep UHN sites running – from making sure all public, staff and patient areas are cleaned and disinfected, to ensuring the timely movement of supplies across the organization, maintaining air handling units so clean, fresh air circulates, and much more.
These teams are an integral part of the frontline, keeping UHN sites reliable, comfortable, sustainable and safe, so UHN can continue transforming lives and communities through excellence in patient care, research and education.
Get to know the various team members below.
A new and improved Epic Transportation team
Shyhien Cousins, a hospital assistant (commonly known as a porter) at Toronto Western Hospital, was excited to be part of the Transportation team working during the launch of UHN’s new health information system, Epic.
At the 4 a.m. launch on June 4, she received her first call on the new Rover device (an iPhone), clicked that she received the task, went to complete it then marked it as finished on her device.
“That’s it?” she asked the team excitedly at the time.
Before the launch of Epic, porters used pagers to receive patient and supply calls. The pager would beep, they’d race to the nearest phone and listen to a voicemail of the request. Now with Epic, Shyhien and her colleagues receive calls on iPhones through a digital system that displays all the necessary patient information, location details and more.
“Epic shows you everything,” says Shyhien. “I can take more confidence in the jobs that I do, because I can see everything – I couldn’t with the pager.”
All the details she needs are at her fingertips – like if she needs to be aware of any infectious diseases or take other precautions with patients.
“It’s just easier to respond and safer,” she says.
Shyhien joined the Transportation team at Toronto Western about a year-and-a-half ago.
Having previously worked in retail, food and entertainment, becoming a porter has been “life-changing.”
“I love connecting with patients,” she says. “I could be having a bad day and just having that interaction changes my mood.”
It’s inspired her to go back to school to become a nurse through Humber College.
Of course, she plans to continue working part-time as a porter during the four-year program.
Celebrating Environmental Services with a Book of Housekeeping Poems
Stephen Edgar, Environmental Services (EVS) aide at Toronto Rehab’s E.W. Bickle Centre, has the perfect gift to celebrate UHN cleaning staff: a book of poetry all about housekeeping.
Stephen – who studied creative writing at Concordia University – has spent the past two years cleaning and disinfecting inpatient rooms, clinical spaces and public areas on the fourth and fifth floors of the Bickle Centre, located in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood.
His colleagues inspired him to pick up his pen again and write.
“They care so much about their work and the patients – I’m incredibly lucky to work with them,” he says.
He dedicated his evenings after work to writing and self-published his book of poetry, “- HSKP – Poems,” late last year.
“Environmental Services is a rich environment for material,” says Stephen. “It’s the easiest book of poetry I’ve ever written.”
His poems, which he describes as “very matter of fact” comedic poetry, cover a range of topics from the toll housekeeping can take on the body to the perils of watching a freshly mopped floor get dirty, finding recyclables in the garbage and even the frustrations of catching a Swiffer on a thermometer probe cover.
“Every single person who’s ever cleaned in health care knows what a Welch Allyn thermometer probe cover is,” Stephen says with a laugh.
Although the book’s 40 poems were written with Stephen’s lighthearted lens, it’s meant as a tribute for his colleagues.
“I wanted to write it for my partners and Hillary, my Supervisor, as a way of saying thank you,” says Stephen. “They actually care about what they do here.
“Our EVS aides play a big role in patient care, and I hope everyone knows that.”
Facilities Management helps keep UHN hospitals running
Ryan Hamilton, shift building operator, plays an integral role in keeping the doors open at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Part of the Facilities Management team, Ryan works to ensure the capability and reliability of UHN’s critical infrastructure, from heating, cooling and ventilation systems, to plumbing, electrical distribution, elevators, pneumatic tube and medical gas systems.
“We’re here to make sure the hospital can keep running another 20 to 25 years,” says Ryan.
He loves the range of his work, whether it’s preventative maintenance – checking on air handling units to ensure clean, fresh air is filtering through the cancer centre, or checking motors and fans to prevent critical downtime – or responding to calls to adjust temperatures to clinical or patient needs.
“It’s a little different every day,” he says, adding that his focus at this time of year is preparing the hospital for cold weather, to make sure pipes and other infrastructure don’t freeze when the temperature drops.
The key to success in his role is a positive attitude.
“Things do go wrong when you’re not expecting it, but you’ve just got to be prepared,” says Ryan. “You’ve got to be able to work under stress.”
The team behind fresh hospital linens: Linen and Laundry
Anthony Mandarino, sorter for Linen and Laundry at Toronto General Hospital, logs up to 22,000 steps per shift.
“I never have to worry about getting my daily step count,” he says with a laugh, after his smart watch alerts him that he burned 750 calories near the end of his day shift.
As part of Linen and Laundry Services, Anthony delivers clean linen – such as isolation gowns, bed sheets and blankets – to units across the hospital. He also collects soiled linen and delivers them to the basement where they get shipped out to get laundered off site.
Anthony has been working in FM-PRO Support Services for 23 years. He started in housekeeping when he was 18, moved to Transportation and now Linen and Laundry, where he’s been for the past three years.
He’s been at TGH through the SARS outbreak 20 years ago, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 has been the most challenging, because everyone was scared,” says Anthony.
At the beginning, the team was highly focused on delivering personal protective equipment to units. Before the pandemic, Anthony would deliver one cart (which holds 36 bags of isolation gowns – 540 gowns per cart) to a department in a single day – at the height of the pandemic that shot up to three carts per day, or more depending on the unit.
Although it can be stressful during unprecedented times at the hospital, Anthony loves his work.
“I like it here,” he says. “This is a home to me.”
The team behind your stocked clean utility room: Materials Management
When Terry Sammut worked as a porter at Toronto General Hospital, he never gave much thought to how clinical supply rooms are always well-stocked with masks, gloves, syringes and other items.
“Working upstairs with patients you just assume when you go into a clean utility room whatever you need is going to be there,” says Terry. “I never realized how much work is actually involved.”
About six months ago, he switched to a storesperson role in Materials Management, which is responsible for all things related to supplies management, from scanning and replenishing supply carts to sourcing substitutes for materials on backorder, receiving goods from UHN’s six receiving docks and delivering those items across UHN sites.
Materials Management staff visit UHN’s many clean utility rooms six days per week to scan items in need of replenishing. Some of those orders get sent to the Stores Department, where they get picked, packed and delivered to the unit by a storespersons such as Terry.
For items that are not kept on site, a Stock Transfer Order is created and sent to a Distribution Centre, where those items are picked, packed and shipped for delivery – the same evening at TGH, or the following morning at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehab.
In the 2022 fiscal year alone, Materials Management delivered 349,000 items throughout UHN hospital sites. They also work closely with Finance teams to ensure all purchase receipts are entered into the system so vendors are paid on time.
“Our job is to help clinical staff focus on patient care – not inventory – so they can deliver the best possible patient outcomes,” says Terry.
Nutrition Services washed thousands of dishes by hand to ensure patients got their meals
At the Nutrition Centre at Toronto Rehab, University Centre – where the Nutrition Services team prepares healthy, nutritious meals for UHN patients – thousands of dishes go through a dish machine the size of a school bus to get washed and reused every day.
When the dish machine broke in August, the team rallied together to wash dishes by hand to ensure patients got their meals on time.
“We were surrounded by soiled dishes,” says Randy Hesp, Manager, Nutrition Services at Toronto Rehab and Hillcrest Reactivation Centre. “Stuff was soaking in every container that we had.”
They switched to disposable dishes where possible, but still had to use trays to deliver meals and mugs due to patient requirements.
“It was a really tough week-and-a-half before the parts we needed could get delivered,” says Randy. “My team really rallied to wash trays here by hand.”
For the 10 days the machine was down, Nutrition Services washed by hand 1,000 trays and 1,000 mugs daily.
For nutrition porter Marilyn Oler it was tough work, but worth the effort for patients.
“We just reacted,” says Marilyn. “It was tiring and your output is different.”
“For the emergency it was okay – but I’m glad to have the machine working again.”
Meet the team supporting Canada’s largest research hospital: Research Facilities
There’s another team working quietly behind the scenes in support of UHN’s award-winning research institutes: Research Laboratory Services, part of the Research Facilities team.
The Research Laboratory Services team supports all laboratory operations across UHN research sites and buildings, including Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Krembil Discovery Tower, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehab’s KITE Research Institute and the Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower.
The team oversees lab operations, sterilization services and the supply centre. They coordinate servicing and calibration of research equipment, help troubleshoot equipment problems, coordinate tenant requests for plumbing, lighting, temperature and other building issues. They also organize services such as chemical waste pick up and liquid nitrogen storage, as well as facilitate smooth service from housekeeping, security and loading dock teams.
The Research Laboratory Services team is most noticeable when emergencies arise, as they respond with an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to ensure research staff are kept safe and spaces remain operational.
“We’re really a one-stop shop for any research-related concerns,” says Tony Goncalves, Manager, Research Laboratory Services. “We’re primarily there to help researchers focus on their experiments, so they do not have to worry about taking care of the facility and equipment around them.”
Brendan Kuba, research technical assistant in the Supply Centre, spends his days ordering lab consumables (pipettes, gloves, anti-bodies, etc.), communicating with vendors on pricing, tracking down any missing items and delivering items to labs.
“We deal with vendors, so they don’t have to, we stock many common items that researchers can just pick up and we will place a restocking order as well as deliver items right to the lab,” says Brendan. “We help researchers get the product they need to do ground-breaking research.”