Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in Camperdown (Sydney) was officially opened on 5 November 2013 to deliver the highest quality of patient- centred care to cancer sufferers. “At Lifehouse, we are committed to providing uncompromising care in a safe and comfortable environment,” states the website. In addition to the doctors, nurses, volunteers and staff who work towards this goal, a major contribution comes from the cleaners who work behind the scenes to ensure a clean and hygienically safe space for this to be achieved.

Bayton Cleaning and Health Support Services is an Australian-owned company providing cleaning and support services for more than 46 years and currently has cleaning contracts with such clients as Commonwealth Bank, Uniting Care Ageing and The Salvation Army. The maintenance of Lifehouse is managed by a team that is lead by client service manager Garitta Saliba, who herself has been in the industry for 13 years.

“I have very high standards when it comes to my staff because that’s how Bayton gets its good name and reputation,” says Saliba. “We are working with people in special care, this is their home, and this is their dignity. It is about respect, it is important to us and we care about the people we clean for.”

Saliba says her team are on call 24 hours, seven days a week, for any cleaning emergencies. “It’s a big responsibility, and sometimes it’s not easy,” she reveals. “You have wonderful days and not so good days, but when you come in to see the people that are being treated here happy, it makes it all worthwhile. At the end of the day when the client calls to say thank you for your help, you forget about all the bad days.”

Saliba is proud to introduce her team at Lifehouse; area supervisor Nibesh Shresta and site supervisor Alex Lopez Torres. “Alex monitors the cleaners and communicates with the staff on a daily basis, he is the right hand man that gets everything done,” explains Saliba. “He’s a quiet achiever but very good at his job.”

Shresta explains there are 19 cleaners rooms across the nine levels of Lifehouse, with a cleaners room at each south and north side, plus the ground floor. “There are two cleaners every morning to clean all common areas, plus Alex,” he shares. “Then the next shift starts from 6am to 9am with another two cleaners. The major cleaning is done after 6pm when there are 10 cleaners on staff.” The patients’ rooms are considered a special clean, and the cleaners receive specific training from an infection control officer. “This cleaning is more important than most as we are dealing with cancer patients that have low immunity so infection control and cross-contamination is of utmost importance,” notes Saliba. “Our cleaners use one microfibre and cleaning product per room, changing each time. And for the pharmacy, cleaners have to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) as they are dealing with areas where they prepare chemotherapy.”

Bayton utilises a simple but effective cleaning system of microfibre and chemicals to achieve a high standard of hygienic clean. Saliba mentions that True Blue Chemicals visits onsite every three months to train the cleaners and ensure they understand how to use the chemicals. “Many of our cleaners come from a non-English speaking background so the learning process needs to be simple and training is the key,” comments Saliba. “I believe the best way to teach is to show cleaners by hand and explain it in very plain English. And True Blue is good at this.”

“We get our microfibre from Master Australia, which has had a good relationship with Bayton since before I was born,” Saliba reveals. “They are easy to work with and always deliver what we need, when we need it.” The cleaning rooms are immaculate as Saliba says they have to be kept to her standards – everything in its place, as the room

From left: Alex Lopez Torres, Nibesh Shresta, Jorge Espitia Alonso and Garitta Saliba.

is a reflection of the cleaners themselves and the job they do. All microfibre is laundered onsite and chemicals are stored in a secure room where the supervisor visits everyday to transport the

chemicals to each dispenser in the cleaners rooms. This is to ensure the dispenser levels are correct and there’s no risk to the cleaners. “It’s important that we protect our cleaners, as they are here to help protect the patients, so we need to keep them safe too,” adds Saliba.

The cleaners use a duty statement to check off their responsibilities, with a daily spot clean and a thorough deep clean once a month. “Duty statements are required for inspection with the building manager,” explained Shresta. “It also makes the cleaner responsible for their own work, which makes them want to do a good job.”

“In my opinion the cleaners are more important here than me or anyone else,” adds Saliba. “But as much as we try to tell them their value and worth, sometimes they don’t believe it. Many of the older cleaners really do care about doing a good job and they pride themselves on their work. These are the type of cleaners we want.”

Saliba started with Bayton as site supervisor for a nursing home site and here, she admits, is where she learnt the most of her experience. “I always ask my cleaners ‘why’ and they used to be intimidated by it as though I was questioning them, but I had to explain that if I don’t ask why, they’ll never learn why they do something,” she remarks. “That’s how I learnt, I kept asking ‘why’. And I want my cleaners to learn and understand the same way.”

Now that she’s a manager, she’s adamant that she hasn’t forgotten where she came from. “I make sure once a month to have breakfast with my cleaners and tell them they aren’t allowed to call me ‘boss’,” she states. “We are all workers, no matter which uniform we wear, whether it’s a suit or a cleaners’ uniform. It’s a better down-to-earth relationship and one of mutual respect.”

One thing Saliba reiterates is the importance of a cleaning standard. “I think cleaning is number one when it comes to health and infection control, which is why cleaners are just as important as the doctors, as we are the ones onsite every day making sure the environment is safe,” she emphasises. “Cleaners are the leaders in infection control. We clean up after the doctors, nurses and patients so nothing gets spread.”

Standard is also why Bayton doesn’t compromise on price when it comes to cleaning contracts. “Our standards are more important than anything. We don’t believe in ruining our name or our reputation by not offering the highest standard of clean,” Saliba states. “We won’t drop the price because that means dropping our standards, and our clients appreciate that. They know they are getting what they pay for.”