Shereez Thomas
  • working during a pandemic

Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtably had a negative impact on the lives of many Jamaicans, both locally and internationally, especially those working in the health sector, being one of the major groups which has been negatively affected by the pandemic. Doctors, nurses and others who work at clinics, hospitals have been facing the brunt of the pandemic.

One such individual is Shereez Thomas, a housekeeper who has worked at the Cornwall Regional Hospital for over nine years. Her job is to ensure that the rooms at the hospital are clean for the patients. The coronavirus coming to Jamaica has had an impact on her during the early stages, but she has not been dithered by this and instead continues to press on despite the challenges.
Though she has a better grip on her work life now, when the coronavirus first came to the island, she was undoubtedly very fearful as not much was known about the virus at the time. She was also very fearful and wondered how she would be able to work at the hospital with the pandemic on the island.

In the early stages of the pandemic as well, Thomas also had to endure discrimination. This discrimination came because she worked at the Cornwall Regional Hospital and came from mostly motorists who were very hostile towards her and her colleagues.
“I remember once taking a taxi from the hospital to get to downtown. I remember getting up off the seat and the driver sprayed where I was sitting” Thomas related.
She felt as if she was being scorned and pushed aside. She also said she was not prepared for the discrimination she received from her peers. This, however, lessened as the months went on as more information was released about the virus.
The extra work, uncertainty about the virus and the discrimination from the wider public eventually put a strain on her and her colleagues. The extra work especially was very daunting as she would have to do a lot more to stay safe. This, in turn, leads to a waste of resources.

“Where I could use the tools for two rooms, I’d have to use it for one, then sterilize, remove my gear and set up for the next room and so on.”

Shereez added that over time she was able to adapt to this new way of doing her work so things became less stressful for her as the months after the pandemic came to the island went by.

She feels that her and her colleagues work do tend to get overlooked and is not appreciated, especially during this time of the pandemic.

“People look down on us housekeepers” Thomas said “In my belief, people don’t appreciate what we do even though we put in 100% in all that we do”.

With the coronavirus now having spent over a year in Jamaica, she is now accustomed to the virus being in Jamaica and the extra work and precautions that come with it.

“That tension isn’t there like when you just heard about the pandemic” Thomas shared.

She also added that once she learned more about the pandemic, she was able to get over her fear about the virus and, while things never got easy, she is understanding of what is happening and is able to work much better and handles extra work and stress better.
-Leon Thomas