Brian and Chewy – Our Busy Maintenance Team
Brian and Chewy make up the busy maintenance team here at St Catherine’s. They oversee all maintenance for the hospice, our 14 retail shops and now the new Pease Pottage Hospice and the Woodgate Hub. They spared some time to tell us a little more about their roles.
What did you both do before working at St Catherine’s?
Chewy: Before working at the hospice, I had nothing to do with maintenance! I used to work in retail as a Deputy store manager at Morrisons, but I didn’t want to be in retail anymore. The reason I ended up working here is because my wife Becky, who worked here at the time, saw a temporary three-month maintenance contract which I applied for – and I haven’t left yet, nearly five years later!
Brian: I was an electrician and worked in the commercial sector. I got tired driving up and down the country and decided it was time for a change. I have a good skill set for this job from my background and experience. I decided to go for it and put something back. The fact St Catherine’s had a new build going through really interested me – the new hospice doesn’t faze me because over the years I’ve been involved in lots of different projects like that. I’ve been here nearly three years and anything electrical comes my way!
How would you sum up your roles?
If it’s broken, we fix it or find a person that can!
Our remit is across the hospice, all the shops and also the Woodgate Hub. The maintenance and facilities at the new hospice will be our responsibility and the day-to-day looking after all the appliances to make sure they are up and running.
How are you feeling about the move to the new hospice?
We’re feeling good. It will be great to have all the new infrastructure inside it and all the new systems. That doesn’t mean there won’t be issues – there always is with new builds, and it’s going to be a learning curve for everybody because of all the new kit in there. But hopefully once it is past the commissioning stage, it should free up a bit more time for us to spend at the shops.
The fact that the new hospice is so much bigger isn’t daunting – we just need a couple of electric scooters to get around it – we’ll be coming to fundraising for that one!
What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge for the last 18 months has been to maintain the current hospice, keeping all the services running before we move to the new hospice and finding time to do everything!
At the beginning of the year, we walk around every building and every room with Wayne, Head of Site Services. We check everything and create a maintenance schedule. For example, a patient’s room may require decorating and we plan it in for when it’s empty. Obviously, we have to try and keep the costs down as we’ll be moving, so we have to look very carefully how the money is spent as we know we won’t be here for much longer.
Infection control is the priority but for other less urgent jobs we’re trying to keep the costs down and looking at how we can fix things temporarily to keep them going until we move.
With such a large remit how do you prioritise?
Our first priority is always to look at patient safety at the hospice. Every morning we look at anything that may have happened overnight, carry out compliance checks and fire alarms are tested to make sure they are in working order.
We are both on 24-hour callout in case of emergencies happening in the evening or overnight. For example, someone phoned at 8pm one evening to say there had been a flood in the downstairs toilet which was caused by a broken pump from the washing machine, so we needed to attend to that. On another occasion one of our shops rang to say they had run out of hot water which required our services.
Choosing the priority out of our responsibilities is not always easy as lots of jobs have to be juggled around. The new build at Pease Pottage is requiring some involvement from us too, although not that much at the moment, but as time moves on, we’ll do more.
Do you think staff understand your role?
Yes, they do in a general sense. One of the biggest changes I think we’ve made to maintenance is that we’ve worked hard to be approachable. We find that’s the right approach, we always say “Hello” to people, talk to them and interact with them.
We’ve also established a great rapport with the St Catherine’s shops and that’s meant they have the confidence to speak to us if they have a problem and they email us directly. The shops are an important part of St Catherine’s, we don’t want them to be scared of talking to us.
How much interaction do you have with the people staying in the hospice and their families?
We have a fair bit. They see us a lot and especially in the summer when we are out in the garden.
The patients love the interaction with us as we’re not nurses and we’re something different for them to focus on. There was once a combustion engineer here and we became quite friendly with him because he was amused watching us constantly changing the temperature of a radiator. We ended up just going in to see him for a quick chat to see how he was doing.
There was another gentleman who was out in the garden watching us put up the Christmas tree and he kept saying, “It’s not straight!” – it was hilarious.
One Christmas there was a lady on the ward with a young daughter, about seven years old, and she and her Nan asked us if we were putting colourful lights on the Christmas tree. We only had one set of white lights, so we decided to go and buy some colourful ones to cheer her up. We turned the tree on so she could see it all lit up and she was very happy. For us, it was worth buying those lights to help that little girl in that moment.
What is the best thing about your job?
The people. It sounds corny but it is.
The people who work here believe in the cause and we have a good rapport with everyone. We’ll say “Good morning” to everyone and we’ll support you in any way we can to help you get your job done. If your chair’s broken, we’ll help you get a new one. If our job can help a little girl because we’ve put coloured lights on a Christmas tree, then that’s good for us.