The women who keep SWAH ship-shape!

Martina McQuade, Marie O'Hara and Nora Ward, Housekeeping Supervisors at South West Acute Hospital    Picture: Ronan McGrade

Martina McQuade, Marie O’Hara and Nora Ward, Housekeeping Supervisors at South West Acute Hospital Picture: Ronan McGrade


THE day-to-day supervision of housekeeping services at South West Acute Hospital is no easy task. 
Overseeing the four-storey 65,000 metre-square hospital means ensuring the cleaning and catering standards are maintained and a high quality safe food service is delivered in a clean and safe environment for patients and staff. 
Housekeeping supervisors Martina McQuade, Marie O’Hara and Nora Ward have, between them, clocked up over 70 years of support service to medical staff in Enniskillen. 
They are responsible for overseeing the cleaning, staffing and ward catering services throughout the hospital to ensure a safe clean environment is maintained and environmental cleanliness standards are met. 
Working away quietly behind the scenes, a key part of their job is making sure everyone is where they are supposed to be when they’re supposed to be. 
With such a lengthy combined level of service, it’s no surprise that these three ladies have organisation down to a tee and keep things ticking over smoothly at SWAH seven days a week. 
A typical day for Marie, Martina and Nora involves clocking in just after 7am to ensure that all the catering staff are present to get the patients their breakfast. 
Next they must make sure all of the staff have arrived and all areas are covered – if not, they have to get cover. 
On top of that there are repairs to be made and audits to be done on all wards as well as organising holidays and wages. Liasing with catering, portering and the laundry teams is essential to make sure all departments have their necessary requirements and all beds are changed over and ready for the next batch of patients.
For Nora Ward, this is her third hospital within the Western Trust following spells in the Erne, Tyrone County and now SWAH. When she first came to Fermanagh, it was her initial intention to stay in the county for four weeks but now over 40 years later, she’s still here. 
“This is my final hospital and the one that will shut me down!” she jokes. 
After training in Belfast and Derry, Nora found herself working through all of the worst years of the Troubles. She says the days of the Enniskillen bombing in November 1987 followed by Omagh in August 1998 remain etched on her mind. 
“It was truly terrible what came into the hospitals on those days in terms of injuries. Those are experiences that you never want to see in your life and they never really leave you. It’s not easy at the time but you just have to get on with it and do the best you can to help. On those days, the porters were bringng people in and I had to ensure that the theatre staff had everything that they needed for looking after the patients. 
“On reflection I think that the two hospitals coped well with what they were faced with. When I first came to Fermanagh and Omagh from Dublin, I never thought that I would witness what I did,” Nora said. 
Not many staff can say that they will see three hospitals out. Both Marie and Martina know that  with 24 and 10 years behind them respectively, they have a long way to go to beat Nora’s four decade record.
SWAH is around three times bigger than the old Erne hospital it replaced in 2012. The biggest change all three women have found since moving there four years ago is the extra miles they have to cover on foot. 
“We’re definitely doing a lot more walking than we used to with all the extra miles of space to cover. It’s always busy so you have no choice but to keep on the move. Let’s just say that if you leave something in the office, there’s no time to go back for it,” says Marie. 
According to Martina, patient feedback is key to get the job right. “We do go into the rooms and ask patients to rate the food, level of care etc because their opinion counts at the end of the day. Despite its size, this hospital is so much easier to clean and maintain so we are very fortunate.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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