Care Beyond the Surface
Maintaining a vital health and safety infrastructure is central to the success of Metro North HHS
In the round-the-clock hustle and bustle of healthcare service provision, it’s easy to focus on the easily observable: a phalanx of clinicians and patients participating in the high-pressure rituals of seeking care. Help. Comfort. Repeat.
Anchoring that activity is the relentless maintenance of cleanliness and safety. It’s often not until the wee hours of a medical crisis that we might notice that essential work being performed: cafeteria staff preparing for the morning rush, fresh linens dispatched by the truckload, security systems checked, checked, and checked again.
Peter King and his team handle it all. As Director of Patient Services for Australia’s largest public health services, Metro North HHS, King oversees the vast array of duties required to keep the organisation’s hospitals and clinics clean, healthy, and safe, including cleaning and portage, patient food services, protective services, compliance, and fire safety.
“I have a team of managers who report to me in the governance structure. We establish strong relationships among critical clinical and non-clinical people across the HHS, and we are proud to say that we are an integral part of the patient journey,” King reported. “We clean, we move, we feed, and we keep everybody safe.”
Considering that Metro North serves a population reaching at least 900,000 through five hospitals with roughly 18,500 staffers, King’s assessment of the work he supervises seems deceptively straightforward. “The most critical component of my job is maintaining clear communication across all of the facilities and providing ongoing support to each of them, ensuring that my management team are on hand and the staff is comfortable to engage with them in the interest of problem resolution and concerns,” he explained.
From maintaining ISO 22000 food safety compliance to undertaking rigorous cleaning audits, safety and quality is an integral part of what the department does on daily basis. “We engage in auditing processes, we have our own Metro North safety and quality work unit and they provide content expertise to all of our line managers across the HHS to support their quest for optimum safety and quality,” King noted.
Workers move amongst facilities to refine best practices, and to gain valuable insights on the needs of each unit within the Metro North system. This cross-pollination of standards helps to ensure regulatory compliance, reinforces agility, and enables staff to build skills and broaden their knowledge.
The team constantly monitors infection control standards and the execution of quality programs. “The State Operational Support Unit is based at Metro North and provides services with best practices in cleaning and infection control. That team reports to me, and they travel around the state of Queensland training and developing policy and procedure at some of our smaller sites in remote areas. We run a conference on an annual basis where we invite all of the remote sites to come to Brisbane and participate in a two-day program which promotes all of those important parts of the cleaning and infection control services,” King said.
Nice and Safe
The department’s work is rooted in Metro North’s Values in Action Program. “We promote the values of teamwork, respect, compassion, integrity, and high performance while we undertake that journey. We feel it's critical that we care for all of our employees, and in return we create a culture of providing the ultimate patient service experience.”
There’s another meaningful component to the way Metro North’s people provide services: They aspire to be nice. Explained King, “As Australia's largest hospital in healthcare service, Metro North is committed to becoming the best and nicest healthcare service in the country. Bringing that vision into reality is changing the way we do business through care, compassion, commitment, innovation, and connection. Our experience affirms the research that has established links between positive organizational results and patient safety, and Metro North is delivering care and support and doing it well. We don’t just look at patient care – we look at how we treat each other.”
A healthcare security and policing expert, King leads the organization’s anti-occupational violence initiatives. “I've got an absolute commitment to ensure that all of our staff are as safe as they can be when they work in a healthcare facility, especially in Metro North,” he stressed. “Across Queensland we have occupational violence prevention instructors, and it's their role and responsibility to evaluate facilities to see that they are as safe as they possibly can be. Their recommendations to management include ways to improve staff safety, reviewing business as it goes on in working areas to identify what level of occupational violence training those areas may need.
“For example, staff working in emergency departments or in a mental health unit may need more training then staff working on a general ward, so the team evaluates instances of occupational violence and makes recommendations to reduce risk. If we ensure one another’s wellbeing at work, we’re headed in the right direction and working our values in action.”
Clean. Safe. Nice. Repeat.