Crothall Healthcare Blog

Courageous Crothall Evs Manager Honored for Leadership During Covid-19 Crisis

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis this spring, John Jepsen was in a fix. The Resident Regional Manager for Housekeeping Services needed an experienced Environmental Services (EVS) manager to take on the unthinkable: oversee all EVS operations for COVID-19 patients at a 225-bed UMass Memorial Medical Center field hospital in Worcester, Mass.

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis this spring, John Jepsen was in a fix. The Resident Regional Manager for Housekeeping Services needed an experienced Environmental Services (EVS) manager to take on the unthinkable: oversee all EVS operations for COVID-19 patients at a 225-bed UMass Memorial Medical Center field hospital in Worcester, Mass.

Jepsen received a tip that Risto Apostoli might be his man. After 24 years at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, the hospital decided to let Apostoli go in March as EVS manager during a round of layoffs. Instead of staying home and receiving money from unemployment insurance – including $600 each week as part of the CARES Act — he wanted to work again. Jepsen arranged to meet with Apostoli at the field hospital, explain the position and find out if he even wanted the job.

Jepsen got straight to the point. “I told him every patient will be positive with the COVID virus. He would need to wear full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the entire day and dispose of regulated medical waste (RMW) from each patient. And I let him know there will be lots of people who may quit once they understand the danger involved.”

After an initial conversation, Jepsen needed to meet with the hospital’s senior epidemiologist and was separated from Apostoli for approximately 30 minutes. After the meeting, Jepsen looked to see if he was still around.

“I figured Risto had seen the precarious situation he would face and just left,” said Jepsen. But after walking over to the loading dock, he found Apostoli showing a group of temporary workers how to tape and remove RMW. Not only was he still there; he was giving instructions on how to handle and dispose of medical waste.

“He speaks Spanish, as did some of the temp workers, so he rounded them up and began training them. He hadn’t been hired for the job, but he came over and told me which ones could be the lead people and those we could count on.”

When Jepsen apologized for cutting short their earlier meeting, Apostoli said: “I was bored at home and I enjoy working in hospitals. It’s what I want to do.”

“If That Isn’t A Healthcare Hero, They Don’t Exist”

Apostoli was named EVS manager at the makeshift hospital and worked there for nine weeks into early June. He demonstrated an unwavering desire to perform well in his new job. He usually arrived before his 7:30 a.m. shift began and often stayed after it was scheduled to end at 3:30 p.m. He would text Jepsen before leaving each day and often check in on weekends.

Even though he was their supervisor, Apostoli often joined in with the temporary workers to clean rooms and dispose of waste. To ensure safety, he insisted that two people disinfect a room after a patient was discharged; one to clean the room and the other to make the bed. And trained everyone how to use the electrostatic spray equipment.

“He was right there working alongside with them,” says Jepsen. “If that isn’t a healthcare hero, they don’t exist.”

During the nine-week span, several workers left, but despite the dangerous working conditions, through proper training and constant vigilance, none of the more than 30 cleaning staff contracted COVID-19. For his work at the field hospital, Apostoli will be awarded the June “Heroes on the Frontline of Healthcare” for the Northeast, at a presentation ceremony sponsored by the Association for the Health Care Environment and Kimberly-Clark.

“I Couldn’t Just Let Him Go; He’s Too Dedicated”

Apostoli proved that he is the epitome of Crothall’s core values, particularly his ability to lead and exceed expectations during such a difficult period.

Jepsen knew he had discovered a jewel and quickly appointed him the acting EVS manager at UMass Memorial. “When the field hospital closed, I could not just let him go; he is too dedicated,” Jepsen says.

Apostoli’s new responsibilities are similar to those he had at Metropolitan West Hospital in Framingham, but there are more people to manage – 70 associates arrive each morning compared to 18 at the old job. But he is thankful for the opportunity. “It’s good to be back and leading a group of dedicated associates,” he says.

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