PENVENTON DURING LOCKDOWN…
A day in the life of team Penventon as an NHS Step-Down Lounge
Chris Flowers. Arthur Lawson. Wes Blake. Mike Richards. Sam Bull. Antony Price. Darren Kaslow. Aaron Pascoe. Dave Meehan. Aaron Rawlings. Kyla Le-Mar.
June Powell. Laura Pascoe. Kelly Semmens. Jess Pascoe. Sarah Blenes. Debbee Frost. Rose Pupak.
Almost overnight, life as we knew it changed quite dramatically. From a Hotel with 87 employees, we had to drop to a small core team of ten, and the rest of the hotel were sadly furloughed. The nine of us had to muck in and perform other roles that we would never normally do as we prepared to become an NHS Step-Down Lounge.
Alongside my duties of a Personnel Administrator, I found myself taking my Level 2, Food Hygiene Certificate, so that I could cook two days a week. This was so that I could cover our Head Chef Aaron’s days off. After six weeks, another Penventon chef, Kyla, was un-furloughed and took over my days in the kitchen, which allowed me to go back to my usual duties. Rather than have me attempt to cook a four-star standard menu, Aaron’s first task was to simplify our menu, not only for my benefit, but to suit our new NHS guests’ dietary needs.
Our Night Porter, Mike, not only had to complete his normal duties but also had to support the night care team. On Mikes nights off, Chris, our Head of Maintenance, took on the additional role of Night Porter. To begin with, Kelly our Head Receptionist, excelled in fielding a million calls a day, but as time went on, she also took on the role of helping with service duties. Whilst June, our Head Housekeeper, become our sole cleaning team, cleaning all our NHS and Key Worker rooms, and maintaining public areas. Jess, who was part time in Admin, jumped to full time hours and helped with marketing, bookkeeping, service and cleaning. Sarah in Accounts, worked from home, keeping on top of any payments and payroll duties.
Darren our General Manager and Aaron our Director had to take on so much more and fill in where the gaps were. They kept us organised, focused, supported and together as a team, whilst liaising daily with the care team.
Gradually, we were able to bring a few more of the team in. Antony came back not as Restaurant Supervisor, but as a room cleaner, kitchen porter and Receptionist. Sam and Wes returned to their usual roles but also helped with food service and other additional jobs. Wes also learned some reception duties. Later, as the weeks progressed and we received more NHS guests, Rose and Debbee came back to their roles in Housekeeping to support June, and Arthur started filling in on Mikes nights off, freeing up Chris. Dave also came back and provided valuable help working on our booking engine and various other projects.
All of us were ready to jump in, help each other out, and do what we needed to do to get through the day, some of which became very long.
It was a very surreal situation seeing our hotel changed into a care home of sorts. The Step-Down Lounge enabled our local Hospital to free up beds for Covid-19 patients. Our guests were patients of the hospital, who were well enough to leave the hospital but were unable to go home because there was no current care package in place for them there. We were the step in the middle, between Hospital and the guest finally being able to return home.
Our ballroom became a furniture warehouse of sorts, as we had to clear out everything in the bedrooms that was surplus to requirements; the NHS guest rooms could only have single beds.
We built a temporary wooden ramp in our Lounge to enable the guests to be able to get up to the rooms either on a wheelchair or on a hospital bed.
Our staff room and Venetian room became offices for the care team and the administration staff. Instead of guests dining and drinking in our public areas, we had a different clientele of nurses, occupational therapists and carers in their uniforms, and ambulances pulled up outside most days with a new VIP guest.
About a week or two in it became clear that our guests were becoming very bored with mostly the TV for company. The care team were extremely busy, and the guests were confined to their rooms and unable to meet or interact with each other, they also couldn’t receive visitors. We decided to put out an appeal locally via Facebook for jigsaws, books, magazines, colouring in, pens, pencils and puzzle books. Anything that the guests could use to keep themselves entertained and take home with them afterwards. The post was shared and within a couple of days, we were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of not only the local people, but from everywhere. We received items from as far as Birmingham and Manchester and most of it was brand new. In a few days, our lounge tables had been full of everything that arrived, the response was incredible and heart-warming to see. We gave our guests some of everything and those that were able, came down and chose for themselves. We received far more than we needed so we shared it with six other local care homes and each one received three bags each while still leaving plenty for our new arrivals.
Out of this appeal a primary school in Somerset responded and sent letters from their pupils, who the week before had an online lesson in letter writing. Our guests were delighted to receive them and those that could wrote back and those that couldn’t had the help of the care team to write a response for them.
A day at Penventon began with breakfast; Kelly our Receptionist and Darren our General Manager usually served this while they, at the same time, checked out our Key Workers and made up their grab ‘n’ go breakfasts, all while keeping up with all the dishes. They did this until 10.00 am when the rest of the team began arriving.
Our Housekeeper June, arrived at 9.00 am and started with cleaning the Key Worker rooms, up until 10.30 am when she was able to clean the NHS guests’ rooms, after they had received their personal care. Other than on their arrival and departure, most of us did not get to meet or interact with our NHS guests as they were in strict isolation, so June was the person who kept the rest of us informed on our guests. We learnt of their quirks and personalities through her, we definitely had some real characters and June really enjoyed this part of her day.
As you would expect, as a hotel we are always up to date with our cleaning; rooms are cleaned every day as are the public areas and toilets, etc. We have, due to the Covid pandemic, stepped up all our procedures and all our rooms are rigorously sanitised before a new occupant goes in. When an NHS guest left, the room was ‘fogged’ and left for 24 hours before receiving extra cleaning and disinfection. If a guest was isolating in a room because of suspected Covid or from a return from hospital, no one from our team could enter the room, even June. If a guest with suspected Covid was taken to hospital, the room was closed off for 72 hours before fogging, then left for another 24 hours before rigorous cleaning and disinfection took place. This rapidly became the new normal.
At 10.30 am to 11.00 am it was time for morning coffee and up went the chocolate digestives and custard creams…that is if there were any left, as we quickly discovered that Custard Creams were Darren’s favourite.
At 11.00 am, whoever was on kitchen duty for lunch would go up to the guest corridor, masked and gloved, to collect the lunch menus from the back of the guest’s door. The guests would have a meat or vegetarian option, or soup and a roll, with a choice of vegetables, dessert, and drink. The trays were prepared ready for service at 12.30 pm, where the care team would then come to the collection point outside the kitchen, and serve them to our guests.
One or two of our guests had special requests, like one lady who always requested a small glass of Sauvignon Blanc with her lunch and dinner, as she told us she had been doing this for years and years. This was an easy one for us. One resident had regular deliveries from Sainsbury’s and Domino’s, we also found Galaxy cake bar wrappers returned on his tray on many occasions. Within his order from Sainsbury’s, there was usually a little treat for his carers.
On one day, there was some excitement and mild panic as a guest went for an unannounced walk. On his returned breakfast tray was a Nicorette patch wrapper, so we surmised he had left the building to buy some ciggies; he had been going out on his patio for a smoke now and again. After hunting the building high and low, searching the grounds, and driving up and down the nearby streets, he returned from a nearby jaunt to Tesco’s with a few packs of cigarettes and was wandering what all the fuss was about.
3.00 pm to 3.30 pm was afternoon tea and here our chef Aaron could show off his skills with his amazing raspberry and pistachio mousse cake. For VE Day a Cornish Cream Tea was deemed appropriate. Sometimes Mrs P sent in her homemade sponge cake, full of her beautiful homemade jam, which is always on the menu here at breakfast.
Dinner was early at 5.30 pm, with a simple choice of jacket potato, omelette, soup, or a sandwich, with dessert and a drink. At 7.30 pm, the final service of the day was hot chocolate or Ovaltine with biscuits.
At 7.30 pm Mike arrived and that was the end of the day for the core team. Mike took over with a new crew of carers and prepared the grab ‘n’ go breakfasts for our Key Workers and the NHS breakfast trays and then the day started anew.
Even though this was not our normal, the new normal as it was, has been very rewarding. There were days when it was incredibly overwhelming and stressful, and there have been emotional moments for all of us. Despite this at the end of the day when we went home, we knew we’d done a great job to the best of our abilities and we all felt a great sense of achievement and satisfaction that we’d been able to do something that had really helped our community. The best part was seeing our guests finally being able to return home.
Written by Laura Pascoe, June 2020.