Joining a new company can be daunting – much to learn, new bosses to impress, new friends to make. Coping with all that barely a month into my job as a Community Relations Executive at SGH, the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
Many people, schools, and other organisations were keen to appreciate our healthcare workers. I found myself in a special COVID-19 Welfare Team that coordinates, receives and distributes gifts that came through the hospital's doors. For nine months I had the most unorthodox on-the-job training any new employee could wish for or imagine.
There were no volunteers to manage, no concerts to organise, no partners to engage for outreach programmes. Instead I took delivery of donations, carried carton boxes and "drifted" trolleys around SGH. Clocking more than 10,000 steps daily was easy, as I ‘teleported’ from one location to another multiple times to receive donations.
I have never worked in a hospital. To me, ‘SOC’ meant ‘Standard Obstacle Course’ and ‘DDR’ was the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. I was ‘SMH’ (shaking my head) every time these abbreviations were thrown at me as the most obvious truth.
SGH has a big workforce and an even bigger compound. Where are the 10,000 staff ‘hiding’? Who do I call so that I could drop off their gifts? It didn’t help that my department worked as split teams during the Circuit Breaker.
Thankfully, I was “adopted” by the Worklife Unit when I worked out of their office for close to 7 months.
Getting lost and going on unplanned "adventures" around SGH was common in the first few weeks. Until I learnt a useful tip - remember each block by the food outlets. So Polar is Block 7, Kaki Makan is Block 2 and Coffee Bean means Block 4. So I was finally able to meet my donors at the right place, as they too have no problem finding these locations.
During this period, you would often find me at Block 7 taxi stand waiting for donors to drop off their gifts. Every donation called for a ‘Kodak moment’ shared widely on social media, which earned me a good deal of ribbing from my friends
“Eight boxes of fruits? Sure!” I confidently turned up with a small trolley only to have 8 cartons stacked so high I could not see where I was going.
A newfound colleague pointing out to Zul that he is a safety hazard as he had stacked the boxes too high.
“Sweets? Hmmm … must be a packet for each staff.” The staff at the Perimeter Screening counters and I had a good laugh at the sight of the little box on the oversize ride.
I learnt to ask donors for more details, or even photos.
My greatest satisfaction came from looking at the photos of our colleagues giving a thumbs-up or grinning away, clearly thrilled by the gifts. The positive affirmation from them kept me going.
On Valentine’s Day, several donors sent flowers to our staff. “This must be what it’s like to be a Casanova,” I thought as I helped to give out 600 stalks of flowers to female colleagues
Taking care of staff at SGH alone was already a massive task. Soon we included staff across the Campus, at CCF@Expo and the migrant workers’ dormitories.
Every time I sent SOS messages for volunteers to come help pack the items, the response from SGH was always positive and overwhelming. An ‘entire village’ was behind these efforts - colleagues from Communications, Worklife Unit, MMD/ALPS, Medical Welfare Warriors (junior doctors from Division of Medicine who help cheer on fellow doctors tending to COVID-19 patients), Nursing, ISS and Security, just to name a few.
As we look forward to the SGH200 celebrations next year, I hope to have a chance to work with these friends (yes! not colleagues anymore!) again and encourage them to join our Community Relations programmes. The camaraderie with my newfound healthcare family is heart-warming and precious for a newbie like me. I may not have taken care of patients but I am thankful to be at the right place and at the right time to play this modest but important role of bolstering staff morale during this pandemic.
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