Cleaning at the hospital's coronavirus ward

Keeping COVID-19 patients safe – behind the scenes.

STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka (photo credit: RACHEL DAVID/SOROKA)
STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka
(photo credit: RACHEL DAVID/SOROKA)
"Every day when we enter the corona ward, we clean all the rooms, take out the garbage, wash out the garbage cans, clean the sinks, toilets and faucets. We change the curtains separating the patients from each other, and wash the floors in the rooms and the hallways. Before we enter a room, we ask the patients to please put on their masks,” explains Lilia Rubin, the housekeeping manager at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba.
“I myself go into the corona ward with all my staff and help with all the tasks. Once we go in, it’s no longer important what our job description is. We all help each other to get everything done quickly. It’s important that my team sees me there cleaning with them – it gives them a feeling of security and makes them less scared. Most of my team are very young – they could be my kids or even my grandchildren. It’s my responsibility to make sure everything gets done properly and that no one my staff gets sick. I make sure everyone has their protective gear on properly, and that they shower after we’re done. We must follow the directives exactly to the letter so that everyone stays safe.”
STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka (Credit: Rachel David/Soroka)STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka (Credit: Rachel David/Soroka)
But aren’t you scared entering the coronavirus ward?
“Some of my staff members are extremely hesitant. That’s understandable – we’re all human. We don’t force anyone to work in this ward. If someone is too scared, they are moved to a different station. These days are very challenging, and just like everyone else around the country, we hope that the epidemic ends soon.”
As the doctors and nurses are working around the clock to save patients’ lives, there are entire teams working behind the scenes to enable them to treat their patients in the safest way possible. There are cleaners, security guards, secretaries and food staff who are putting their own safety on the line for COVID-19 patients. The people of Israel need to acknowledge the hard work and determination of all these brave souls.
“In the news every day we hear people applauding the doctors and nurses,” continues Rubin. “I agree, they are doing an amazing job, but nobody seems to notice the cleaners – how we go in every day and risk our lives to keep everyone else safe,” says Sima Robess, the operations manager at Meir Hospital. Before the corona patients could be brought into the ward, we completely disinfected it. Our cleaning staff was given a detailed training session about how to prevent the spread of contagion, how to protect ourselves and how the rooms needed to be prepared. After the corona patients were moved into the ward, our staff continued going in twice a day, with full protective gear, to clean the rooms, just like they do in five-star hotels. For example, if a new patient comes, or if a patient is moved into our ward from a different part of the hospital, we make sure to disinfect every step along the path they take, including the elevators. We work from early in the morning until late at night. The work is endless. All day long I check to make sure that my staff members are accomplishing everything we need to do.”
STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka (Credit: Rachel David/Soroka)STAYING CORONA-SAFE at Soroka (Credit: Rachel David/Soroka)
What’s the general feeling among your team these days?
“It’s tough,” admits Rubin. “Some of my staff members are really scared. We’ve doubled the number of cleaners, since there’s so much work to do. We also set up a break room, with a table where they can sit to eat their meals. It’s important that they have a place to rest for a few moments, since this work is so stressful.”
“Since the onset of the epidemic, we’ve been busy transferring equipment from one department to another,” say Chen Koorkus, the groundskeeper at Hillel Yaffe Hospital in Hadera. “We disassembled entire wards, transported the heavy medical equipment and office paraphernalia to other parts of the hospital so that when the contractors came they could carry out the renovations necessary to turn this section of the hospital into a corona ward. We had to work around the clock for three weeks, since they wanted to get the ward up and running as quickly as possible. When the renovations were completed, we helped set up the new rooms for the corona patients.”

Do you have special directives for dealing with garbage that contains contagious material?
“That was one of the first tasks we learned about, and we are constantly disposing of hazardous material all day and night, usually about every two hours. We put on full protective gear, take the bags of contagious waste and transport it using a special elevator that is off limits to everyone else, and bring it to a special room earmarked for contagious materials. And then we immediately take off our protective gear according to hospital procedure.”
LILIA RUBIN, housekeeping manager at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, with her staff. (Credit: Meir Medical Center Spokesman)LILIA RUBIN, housekeeping manager at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, with her staff. (Credit: Meir Medical Center Spokesman)
Are you afraid of getting sick?
“Of course! This job requires a tremendous amount of fortitude. All my staff are concerned about catching the virus, but everyone is taking their work very seriously and we support each other constantly.”
Do you feel like you and your team aren’t appreciated enough by the public?
“We feel very good about the important task we’re fulfilling. The doctors’ role is to be in the forefront. Our job is to make sure everything is running smoothly behind the scenes. So, it’s not that we think our job is less important, or that we need to be applauded. It’s definitely the medical staff who need to be talking to the media.”
“We stand just outside the biological ER and at the entrance to the contagion ward, where the corona patients are brought, wearing a mask and gloves,” explains Matan Avitan, a security guard at Hillel Yaffe. “If for whatever reason we need to go in to either one, we suit up with all the extra protective gear and go in. Just recently, I had to accompany workers who had to go inside the ward to fix something in the telecommunications network. I was there to make sure that everyone follows hospital protocol.”
ALEXANDER GLOZMAN (right), head of food services, works with chef Liran Azuri to accommodate corona patients’ needs at Rabin Medical Center, Hasharon campus, in Petah Tikva. (Credit: Rabin Medical Center Spokesman)ALEXANDER GLOZMAN (right), head of food services, works with chef Liran Azuri to accommodate corona patients’ needs at Rabin Medical Center, Hasharon campus, in Petah Tikva. (Credit: Rabin Medical Center Spokesman)
Was it a frightening experience?
“No, because I was wearing full protective gear. All we can do is follow the directives and hope for the best. I mean we’re all worried that we might catch it, and concerned for our family members’ safety, too, but we’re being extremely careful. We have a job to do, and we need to make a living.”

Do you have any contact with patients who come into the special ER?
“We stand at the entrance, just outside. We don’t physically touch anyone. When a person approaches, we instruct them to stand at a distance, or if they come by car, we tell them to remain in the car until the medical team, with full protective gear, comes out to bring them in. Our team of security guards are lucky if they don’t need to go inside.”
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Michal Raz-Reuveni worked in the pediatric ICU. Now, during the epidemic, she’s been moved to Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, where she works as the secretary of the corona ward.
“They created a new ward and they asked me to help organize everything,” explains Raz-Reuveni. “I asked to be shown the ward, where I met the incredible staff of nurses and doctors. I immediately felt like this was a safe place to work. I run the logistical center and am in charge of keeping track of which patients come in and which leave. I am the person who coordinates with the security guards by two-way radio, and communicates with all the corona patients by phone and intercom. I’m also the one who organizes their food and any special requests. I can see each patient by camera. Only doctors and nurses are allowed to go inside.”
Raz-Reuveni, a mother of two, admits that she is continuously worried about getting sick.
MICHAL RAZ-REUVENI, who was moved to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center due to the epidemic, feels good about the work she is doing. (Credit: Soroka Medical Center Spokesman)MICHAL RAZ-REUVENI, who was moved to Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center due to the epidemic, feels good about the work she is doing. (Credit: Soroka Medical Center Spokesman)
“I knew what this job involved when I agreed to take the job at Soroka. There’s so much work to do, and everyone is doing their part. I’m part of a team. My family were pretty stressed out at first, and kept asking me why it has to be me. I explained to them that it’s very important work. And we are very appreciated by the public – people send us treats all the time. And many of the patients and their families thank us for our dedication. I’ve really gotten to know the patients. We give them messages from their loved ones all the time. Of course, we all want this epidemic to be over soon, but in the meantime, I feel good about the work I’m doing.”
Alexander Glozman, the head of food services at Hasharon Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva, and chef Liran Azuri are trying very hard to accommodate the corona patients’ needs.
“Many of our patients love the special apple strudel we prepare for them,” says Glozman with a big smile. “They joke that our hospital is famous for of it.”
What kind of menu do you prepare for the coronavirus patients?
“We try to make something special every day. The nursing aides or social workers who are in contact with them bring us suggestions and requests from the patients. We try as much as we can to prepare foods that they’ve requested, as long as they are approved by the hospital’s dietitian and are healthy.”
“We’ve been working around the clock, like 12 to 14 hours a day,” adds Azuri. “Every day we prepare eight or 10 types of meat, and in the evenings, things like focaccia and pizza. For breakfast we make malawach and hardboiled eggs, tuna salad, omelets and vegetables. We make a big effort so that the dishes will taste as close to homemade food as possible, and we try to accommodate the patients’ requests as much as possible. And if someone has a birthday, of course we make a big cake for everyone. In short, we’re trying to help everyone heal quickly so they can go home. I think this is even better food than they’d get at the Dan Hotel,” Azuri says with a chuckle.
“Some of the corona patients are haredi, so we make sure to prepare mehadrin food for them,” adds Glozman. “We bring the food to the corona ward, and special workers from the ward bring the food inside. There are three different sets of doors they need to go through. At first, we were bringing the food in prepared trays with the patients’ names written on them. But now we’ve switched to buffet style, since the patients like to eat together and share all the food. They say it feels much nicer this way.”
Hasharon Hospital was converted into a facility that caters exclusively to COVID-19 patients.
“We have about 20 to 22 people working in each kitchen shift here,” continues Glozman. “We’re always washing our hands and face and then using a special disinfectant. Everyone wears gloves and masks at all times. We all follow the directives 100%. If one of our workers calls in the morning and says he doesn’t feel well, we immediately report this to our manager. No one comes back to work without permission from a doctor.”
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
HOLDING DOWN the fort at Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Hospital: Chen Koorkus, groundskeeper. (Credit: Rafi Koren)HOLDING DOWN the fort at Hadera’s Hillel Yaffe Hospital: Chen Koorkus, groundskeeper. (Credit: Rafi Koren)