Doing my bit

Nicola Jones

Tuesday May 26, 2020

Nicola Jones, Senior Project Manager, Gleeds

Do others feel the same gratitude when they wake up in the morning, free and healthy from symptoms of the Coronavirus and thank their lucky stars that they and their family have been kept safe and well (so far) from the invisible monster debilitating and indiscriminately killing men, women and children around the world, because I do! But I would also be lying if I said I wasn’t scared, because I am and, along with everyone else who is living in this world of lockdown, I have had the occasional wobble and cried my eyes out, in fact I have had my first ever panic attack.

For those who don’t know me I am first and foremost a Mum and Grandmother but I am also a Project Manager and one of a few women working in construction during the current health crisis. I work alongside Health Boards and Trusts to facilitate areas within live hospitals, sports arenas and exhibition centres to provide beds to care for those who need hospitalisation.

I am one of two female project managers working for Gleeds and racing against time in Wales to provide such beds. I am tasked in getting COVID-19 wards up and running at a number of Cardiff & Vale University Health Boards - these are live hospital sites - as well as completing a new build, a 10 bed HCID (High Consequences Infection Diseases) Unit at the University Hospital of Wales. Programmes range between two weeks up to 13 weeks. One of my colleagues, Victoria Head, is also leading the race to provide early handover of 300+ beds at the Grange Hospital Cwmbran, which is a site very local to me and is also within the epicentre of the virus in Wales.

This work is on top of my existing workload of continuing the build of two new essential Health Care projects that will be required in the aftermath of this pandemic crisis. One of these is the All Wales Adult Cystic Fibrosis Unit, whose patient type are at a higher risk should they contract coronavirus, even in its mild form.
This is a busy and exhausting time and needless to say over the last few weeks I have been putting in long hours and weekend work…but let’s face it, I haven’t got any plans.

I still attend site and meetings with Estates Teams and Clinicians, as the eyes and ears of the design team. But whilst I am pushing myself through this time, I am fortunate to have fantastic teams working alongside me and it is for some of these colleagues that I have wept many of those tears.

We watch the news and we hear about the doctors, nurses, and carers who have sadly lost their lives in this fight and I worry every time the contractors and their supply chain walk onto site, because it is not easy. They work to the guidance so there are less hands on the site but the programme stays the same. They push themselves, working shifts to get the job done because they know the NHS is counting on them, the people of Wales are counting on them.

I wish I could be a heartless person and feel nothing, it’s not personal, it’s professional, but that’s not me, that’s not who I am, I know a lot of the guys and girls on site, I’ve met many of their wives, husbands, partners and children, I feel somehow responsible for them every time they clock in. And whilst I know this responsibility is in my head and that it is not strictly true - I still have a problem with it all in my heart. I don’t let them see me cry but I know they know, they see it, because they feel the strain too. At the end of a shift they call to update me on progress but to also offload on their journey home, the burden they feel and carry for leaving and not staying home, staying safe, keeping their family safe. I feel it too when I don & dough my own PPE to walk through hospitals and sites on a daily basis to do my own job. The UK and Piers Morgan should know not everyone in construction is continuing to work because their employers say they have to – most of us continue to work because we feel compelled to do our bit in this war, and it is a war, and I hope it is the one and only one I ever live through.

My job will not be over when all these works are complete, because not all the wards are temporary Nightingale Wards, they are fully compliant wards and will stay in use once this is all over.

I will be reviewed by an audit to ensure that Government monies were spent correctly and that the Contractor gave value for money - bureaucracy takes the place of speed, fear and panic.

But that’s the job, that’s why I love working in Health Care, I may not save lives but at the end of the day all the tears turn to joy and that is what keeps me motivated, keeps my burning passion alive and my contribution to keeping us all alive.

Stay Safe, Stay Well, and above all stay sane.

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