The operations of a team of janitors yield the required results on a given premises only when well supervised. The role of the supervisor gets all the more challenging when it comes to meeting cleaning standards in a mental hospital. Clean India Journal speaks to Bapusaheb Bhilagi Pagare of Maharashtra Vikas Group, a facility management company managing the Regional Mental Hospital at Yerawada, Pune.
Housekeeping in India today involves activities much more than just cleaning, especially in mental hospitals. When Pagare, a post-graduate in Mathematics who has served in the Indian Army for 18 years, chose to become the head supervisor at 71 years of age, he also accepted the role of working amid criminals who are mentally challenged. With 3500 inmates in the 99-years-old British-built Yerawada hospital, cleaning is a 24 hour activity.
“The 120 janitors in the premises, adorn a much more responsible role compared to services delivered in any other hospital. Their job has to be driven by passion and love towards patients who do not know what cleanliness is all about. Patients tend to answer nature’s call while eating and dirty their clothes and the area around them any time of the day or night. Understanding hygiene is beyond their mental ability. We try to maintain cleanliness with a smile as it is considered a good deed to serve such people.”
With continuous cleaning, the amount of time required to clean the 3.0 sqkm hospital premises inside out is not ascertained. People work in shifts like 7am to 3pm, 12pm to 7pm and 7pm to 7am. In all, there are nine wards for men and seven for women. The nine wards also consist of observer ward and weak ward consisting of new patients and criminals respectively.
There is no set schedule for cleaning. Perhaps more than skill, there is a need for patience among janitors in dealing with inmates. “They don’t know how to talk or walk and we have to teach and help them with love and patience all the time.” The male ward of 1700 patients mostly consists of criminals who have lost their mental balance. “We had a patient who killed 10 people at a time and was under observation. Hence, we work according to the situation. You can say that the demand of the situation is our Guru.”
Cleaning at the hospital primarily consists of wet and dry cleaning using conventional modes and locally available products. “We use one high-pressure rotary machine, Karcher and Roots machines, one scrubbing machine and five to six units of vacuum cleaners in the patient rooms and wards. The early morning sight of a patient room is similar to a cattle shed! It is most challenging for the janitor to face a dirty room each day. The sight puts off the worker. Hence, we have to keep a balance of both manual and mechanised cleaning practices.”
Laundry is handled in-house as there is constant need for washed clothes for the inmates. Unfortunately, patients soil clothes requiring frequent changing. “We would have just helped the patient into freshly washed and ironed clothes and the next moment he or she would have soiled it. Soiled clothes are cleaned and washed with sanitizing chemicals, bleach and stiffening powders. It is then ironed and neatly kept for its next use.
“We work out of love, dedication and pity for them as it is not their fault for the state they are in. They are helpless.”
“Cleanliness has to be cultivated. We have to be very affectionate towards the patients and even a small discomforting gesture can get them emotional. We need patience to teach them.
“In fact, cleanliness has become a part of me and I make every effort to keep everything clean. I even rebuke my granddaughter to make sure she maintains cleanliness. I feel, along with education children must be taught about cleanliness of mind, body and environment at school. Knowledge makes you respond and ignorance makes you react. If your mind is clean you will feel clean and will want everything clean.”
Well, the inmates of Yerawada hospital litter unknowingly they can be forgiven as they are mentally sick but what do we do with people who knowingly litter the streets, trains, buses…?