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Getting to know the frontline: Hospital bed engineer Brian McKillop

Brian McKillop. Image credit: contributed

Getting to know the frontline: Hospital bed engineer Brian McKillop

Brian McKillop, a hospital bed engineer, talks about working in hospitals during a global pandemic

Tell us a little bit about your job? I work for a company called Arjo, which is a medical equipment company. My full-time site is Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, but I also cover the Western General and recently Midlothian Hospital. I'm a bed engineer, all beds are my responsibility. If there’s a problem with a bed they'll phone it in, it will come to me, I'll go out and diagnose the problem, repair the bed. When I'm not doing that, I'm servicing beds, testing them, making sure they're safe.

How has your work changed during the COVID-19 pandemic? Honestly, things are business as normal. Obviously, working in hospitals, the biggest difference for me is wearing the PPE. Every single ward that I go into has gloves and masks. To begin with it felt a bit funny, I would see people putting on their masks and it was a bit surreal, but now it's just second nature. But in the hospitals it's eerily quiet. In my role nothing has changed apart from, I can get access to more areas in the hospital because there's not as many people occupying beds. What I think is, this whole pandemic has been media-driven because I keep hearing about how hectic it is in hospitals, but it's the exact opposite because it's so quiet.

Did you worry that the virus might affect your job? When this all did start, they asked us to take holidays because they didn't know what way it was going to go. Our company put 1,000 beds into the Louisa Jordan Hospital, we also supplied the beds for the one in London, so it was kind of hectic. As the weeks went past, there were guys furloughed because a lot of nursing homes wouldn't let engineers in, they would only let engineers in for re-active work, but not for the routine service and maintenance work.

Were you ever worried about getting the virus, considering you work in the hospitals? Absolutely, to begin with. I've got two kids, I've got a five-year-old and I've got an eight-year-old…And then watching the news, there was an article about Italy and there were cases there where this virus was affecting the lungs so badly that it was irreparable. In my family, I've had members that had the virus, and seeing the effects and then seeing the hospital so quiet…There's not been this massive peak, especially from what I've seen first-hand.

How did you feel about being classified as an essential worker? To be honest, a little bit embarrassed. Even yesterday, I went up to Waitrose and I was standing in a queue and there was maybe two or three elderly folks standing in the queue. As soon as I came to the shop, somebody said to me “you can come to the front” and I'm like “no... these people are here”. Why should I get any privileges for doing my job?

Are there any positives that you can take away from this experience? Freedom. And appreciating the freedom. When that choice is taken away – not being able to jump in the car, go and visit the in-laws, go and visit my mum – it makes you appreciate the little things in life.

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