As part of the housekeeping team at SingHealth Tower, which houses both Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and Outram Community Hospital (OCH) wards, Ms Nan Thidar Mon has to ensure that inpatient wards are disinfected, washrooms are checked at regular intervals, and beds of discharged patients are prepped and ready for their next occupants. She also ensures that waste and soiled linen are collected and disposed appropriately.
For Ms Thidar, 31, who has worked in Singapore for over six years, gaining employment here was an opportunity that she had hoped for, and was elated when she secured a job in 2017 under a recruitment exercise by ISS Facility Services Pte Ltd. Aside from the more competitive remuneration, working in Singapore was a draw because of its reputation as a clean and safe country. “This opportunity has allowed me to support my family and save money as well,” said Ms Thidar, who has a degree in Chemistry from Hpa-an University. “I consider myself very lucky.”
Her first posting was to Changi General Hospital (CGH), where she was responsible for cleaning the inpatient ward. Although she had been briefed by a friend who worked in Singapore about the job and thought she was suitably prepared, she struggled with the tasks initially.
“Housekeeping is very challenging, especially in a hospital environment,” she said. Aside from following through with the entire workflow, there were protocols she had to adhere to, such as meeting infectious control standards within the hospital. “I needed to learn things like hand hygiene, handling of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), different methods of disinfection, understanding the different kinds of infectious diseases, their mode of transmission, and the various cleaning methods to prevent spread,” she shared.
Read more: Clean hands go a long way to preventing the cold and flu. Learn the proper way to wash hands and other prevention tips.
There were also communication issues to overcome. She gradually overcame the language barrier through frequent interactions with her colleagues.
In 2020, she was posted to SingHealth Tower. Ms Thidar then became part of the pioneer batch of frontline workers at inpatient wards when COVID-19 pandemic hit. It was a particularly trying time for Ms Thidar and her colleagues as they had to grapple with terminal cleaning — thorough disinfection of all surfaces, including floors and walls — and enhanced sanitisation protocol using strong disinfectant at an increased cleaning frequency. “Due to the increase in the cases of infected patients, we were required to take extra measures, such as donning full PPE and working long hours while maintaining social distancing protocols at work to complete all cleaning tasks,” she said. “When our colleagues got infected, we also had to cover their duties due to lack of manpower.”
In hindsight, Ms Thidar reflected that the pandemic taught her an important lesson — teamwork is very important and everyone has a part to play in order to overcome challenging situations.
In 2021, Ms Thidar was promoted to Inpatient Team Leader. “It was one of my proudest moments,” she described. The new role allowed her to mentor new housekeeping staff. “It’s very challenging as I must mentor colleagues from different countries and cultures,” she said. Over the years, she has picked up basic Chinese and Malay phrases, which helps when giving instructions to her co-workers.
“I feel especially proud when patients and nurses leave positive feedback about our cleaning standards and hard work. It really makes our day,” she said.
Ms Thidar has developed a sense of belonging to Singapore. During her time off, she often cycles around Singapore with her friends — Coney Island is a favoured destination. The avid cook has also developed a taste for mala dishes. Career-wise, she is looking forward to progressing further in her role. “As long as there is an opportunity for me to work here, I will continue to stay in Singapore,” she said.
Get the latest updates about Singapore Health in your mailbox! Click here to subscribe.