We Must Remember All “Healthcare Heroes”—Including Hospital Cleaners and Janitors

Hunter Walker, a White House correspondent for Yahoo, recently tweeted a picture of his mother-in-law, a hospital cleaner, on the job during the coronavirus crisis. 

https://twitter.com/hunterw/status/1246574579386105859

“My mother-in-law is an immigrant from Peru working as a hospital cleaner near the center of the #coronavirus crisis in Westchester NY,” Walker wrote. “She posted this photo and said, ‘This is my chance to thank New York for making my family’s dreams come true.’ I love her a lot and am so proud.”

Walker also shared a GoFundMe page to support housekeepers and day laborers, many of whom have lost their jobs due to social distancing.

His tweet comes in a wake of several initiatives to thank healthcare heroes, specifically doctors and nurses.

Walker’s tweet, focused on hospital cleaners, brought up a deserving question: What about cleaning staff and janitors, who keep hospitals safe? Where is their love?

Cleaners and janitors can’t stay home during this pandemic. They are needed at hospitals to ensure doctors and patients are safe and have a clean environment to work in. If a patient has recently recovered from COVID-19 and is still in the hospital, without proper cleaning, they could get sick again. 

One of the biggest necessities is personal protective equipment (PPE), including goggles, masks and protective clothing to cover arms and legs. While the CDC drafted a comprehensive hospital preparedness checklist for healthcare workers to follow, following this checklist is hard to do with the limited supplies of PPE. 

According to the Washington Post, PPE is quickly decreasing, and doctors treating patients receive first pick at supplies. 

“Registered nurses come first. Then you start to walk down the list afterward; there are people down that list,” said Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, which represents nearly 30,000 health-care workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities and emergency medical services in Canada.

“There’s no question the priority is giving to nurses and doctors. The problem is, it doesn’t do anything to those workers at the hospital being exposed to the same thing.”

Lack of support and concern for cleaners is a national issue. In Vancouver, hospital cleaners are feeling “invisible” and “undervalued” by their employers. Jennifer Whiteside, a spokesperson for the Hospitals Employee Union in Vancouver, said that cleaners are vital during this crisis, and without them, potentially more lives could be at risk. 

“Nobody in a hospital can do their work without a clean environment in which to do it. Housekeepers are every bit as critical to providing care to … any other health-care worker,” said Whiteside.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it is important to remember all the people who are on the frontline working to keep communities safe. 

While raising money to support workers and PPE supplies is one thing people can do to support cleaners, showing love and acknowledgement of their work like Walker did is even more appreciated. 

https://twitter.com/boltonnhsft/status/1244933541873491968

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving.

During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media.

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About

Ashley Lynn Priore—a social entrepreneur, writer, public servant and innovative speaker—is the founder, president and CEO of Queen's Gambit, a national nonprofit using chess as a catalyst for change. Ashley is the author of Let's Learn Chess! and is currently completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Pittsburgh.