Simon Newman, Rowans Hospice Facilities Manager, talks about his role and explains why the hospice building will really benefit from the Silver Jubilee Appeal refurbishment plans.
I joined Rowans nearly 13 years ago, in 2006. Prior to coming here, I had been working in retail operations but knew that I wanted a change of direction. Initially my intention was to become a Counsellor. I had completed a counselling course and was accumulating the volunteering experience needed for my degree, when I realised that counselling wasn’t the direction for me.
So I started to look for something in a caring environment, when the facility job at Rowans appeared. I immediately applied for it, as the position allowed me to utilise all my technical and logistical skills, in a really caring environment.
I knew of the Rowans because a friend who had died and left a big legacy to the place. I didn’t have any further connections.
Before starting, I took the opportunity to look around and meet people. I was surprised how cheery the environment was and the amount of laughter. I then started to appreciate the fact that the patients haven’t come here to die, they have come here to live until they die. They want life to be as normal as possible, to see people cleaning the windows, chatting, hoovering the rooms and emptying the bins. They want to see ordinary life for as long as they can.
Likewise I didn’t really know much about palliative care and respite. So I think, like a lot of people who don’t know The Rowans, I assumed you go in and never come out! However I quickly learnt there are obviously quite a large percentage of people who do come in here and go back to their home.
“I have actually been steering a canal boat across an Aqua-duct in Wales with one hand and on the other, on the phone explaining how to isolate an electrical switch”
Rowans is the sort of place that gets into your bones, you become part of it. That is what has happened to me. It really matters to me that everything works correctly, everything is as good as it can be. It is imperative to me to make sure that all the services are functioning, the rooms are warm. The environment is as good as it can be for the patients, and for the visitors of course.
For eleven years I was looking after all the general maintenance on my own. During that time I was “on call” 24/7. I have actually been steering a canal boat across an Aqua-duct in Wales with one hand and on the other, on the phone explaining how to isolate an electrical switch in the extension!
When the Living Well Centre opened, I got an assistant because we perceived that this extra building would create too much additional work. It hasn’t turned out that way, as it’s a new building it has been quite maintenance free. The hospice building has become more demanding.
Do you recognise the need for the refurbishment?
Yes totally, all the fittings and fixtures and the fabric of the building are 25 years old and well used. It’s not like we shut the doors overnight and open them again at 9am the next morning, its 24/7.
The hospice was 12 years old when I joined, gradually things are deteriorating and are looking really tired and in need of updating all round. We are maintaining everything to provide a safe, clean and welcoming environment. But obviously there are limitations when maintaining a 25 year old building, its fixture and fittings.
Its crazy things like the toilets. How often are the toilets flushed every day, especially in the public areas. I have lost count of the times I have had to replace bits and pieces in the toilet cisterns. You can keep them going but they are the original old cisterns.
Also the lighting is all original. I am updating what I can with LEDs but 25 years ago LEDs didn’t exist. I want to update things, use more energy-efficient, sustainable alternatives but the building sets limitations. I can’t make the building any more modern than it is. So we are really ready for this refurb now, to prepare ourselves for the future.