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Elizabeth Rosario

Elizabeth Rosario

Light Duty Cleaner

Prior to the pandemic, I worked as a cleaner in the main hospital at Providence. My Manager asked me to clean resident rooms who were COVID-positive in the Houses. I am from the Dominican and when I talked to my family, they said please don’t do it. But I wasn’t scared, I just felt a rush of adrenaline and said if you need me, I’ll do it. I will try my best. This is my job and I am proud to work for the Hospital. 

I pray before I enter each room. It gives me comfort and I feel protected. God is my support and keeps my mind positive. My Mother died 9 years ago, and I carry around her picture with me.  So every time I pray, I see my mom’s picture and it helps me stay calm.

My first day of cleaning I wore two gowns — one on the front and one on the back — and I wore two masks. I put plastic bags around my shoes as well, then I felt ready.  It was hard to work like that. It felt good to talk to the residents when I cleaned their rooms and I could ask if they needed anything. 

It takes about 12 minutes to clean a regular room and 30 minutes to clean the COVID rooms.  I clean everything you see in the room — everything the patient or nurse touches — and we do extra cleaning outside the room. I don’t go in a patient room unless my Manager is nearby.  She makes sure I’m safe. COVID is new and we come up with new ideas together. 

You have to change your clothes before you enter each room and we clean rooms twice a day, so I would change about 20 times per shift. At the end of each day I shower at work, wash my hair, put my dirty clothes in a bag, and disinfect my bag. It takes a long time. My shift ends at 3 and I leave around 5 p.m. On my way home I call my daughters and tell them to stay in their rooms.  When I get home, I put my clothes in the laundry right away and take another shower.  Then I tell my daughters: “Mommy is here!”  They always say “Mommy Covi is here!” 

I pray before I enter each room. It gives me comfort and I feel protected. God is my support and keeps my mind positive.

At first, my colleagues were scared to be near me. Now they call me “Covi”. I have been tested a few times and they have all been negative.  I protect myself. I am not just a cleaner, I am part of the team and I get joy from making people safe. I never think I am too tired or I don’t want to do it.  It is important to me to have the space clean and disinfected otherwise the doctors or nurses can’t help the patients. A doctor told me that I have the most important job in the hospital, I feel like a hero.  

COVID changed the world and the hospital too, I think about this all the time. It felt really good when the outbreak was over. I feel like I am doing something good for Canada.

Elizabeth Rosario is a light duty cleaner at Providence Healthcare.

As told to Katie Cooper. Photos by Katie Cooper. This interview has been edited and condensed.