While we all come to terms with a different way of working through the pandemic, spare a thought for Pre-Op Assessment and Health Care Assistant, Andrea Greenall, who when elective surgery returned to the Trust was faced with the task of ensuring patients were safe and COVID-19 free to visit the hospital for their upcoming surgery.
Previously Andrea’s role would have seen patients come out to visit her for the pre-op assessment, but with lockdown guidelines still in place and elective surgery restarting it was necessary to put something in place for the patients who could not attend the drive through swabbing centre, and the decision was taken to visit the patients in their homes, and to give them a COVID-19 swab to ensure they were fit for surgery.
This meant a change in direction for Andrea, both figuratively and literally, as she and her ‘driver’ can now be seen whizzing around the roads of Greater Manchester as part of the all-new mobile swabbing team.
“We go to houses all around the North West,” Andrea said from her base in J Block. “Sometimes we travel quite a distance which can be quite hard when we have a time restraint of between 9am and 2pm, the swabs have to be back in pathology by 2pm.
“Yesterday we went to Salford, Oldham, Wigan, it all depends on the area that we are in. The most we have done with one team in one day was ten patients with the two of us on a Saturday, which we found really hard, but we got through and got back at about ten to 2pm.”
The speed in which the mobile swabbing team dash about visiting patients, is only matched by the pace in which the team itself was set up – a great example of how quickly the Trust has learnt to adapt during the pandemic.
“I was shocked how fast we got this up and running,” Andrea said. “We started it on a Monday and we were doing patients by the Wednesday or Thursday of that week. It shows what people are willing to do.
“The swab only takes a couple of seconds, the most you are in a house is five minutes and most of that time is taken up with putting your PPE on. You’ve got to gel your hands, then put a pinny on, your gloves on, your mask on, your visor on, to get all that on takes longer than the actual swab.
“We’ve had some really good feedback, often people are saying thank-you because they thought it would be a lot worse than it actually is.”
To be expected, Andrea and her colleague, so-called ‘driver’ and fellow Health Care Assistant, Chantelle Jarvis, have had the opportunity to meet the great and the good of the Bolton and district community, even if some are more appreciative than others.
“We get beautiful patients, so nice, so sweet and then you get those that are a bit aggressive and not very thankful that you have gone out your way and gone to their house in your own car,” Chantelle says.
“I had to wake some of them up,” Andrea adds. “I have been ringing for patients and we tell them we will be there between nine and two, we never tell them an exact time, and they are in bed at eleven o’clock. We sometimes get asked, ‘can you come back I’ve only just woken up.’”
The success of the mobile swabbing team has played a pivotal role in ensuring a smooth transition back to a restart for elective surgery, keeping waiting list times down and giving patients the confidence to return to the hospital environment.