Electrical maintenance supervisor
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Property & Infrastructure
I started as an electrician at Waikato Hospital in May 1969, more than 42 years ago.
That period was the start of a growth spurt at the hospital. New buildings were coming on line and, at the time, you had to have so many tradespeople per square metre.
There were only four or five electricians when I started, and within six months they’d employed another six or seven guys.
In the heyday there were 120 or 130 tradestaff. There were electricians, carpenters, engineers, mechanics, plumbers, painters, sheet metal workers, a locksmith, vinyl layers and tilers, drivers, architects, gardeners and more.
We trained up a lot of apprentices.
It really died in 1993, that was the black year for us, the third round of redundancies. We were cut back to a staff of 20 to 25.
Now I’m an electrical supervisor, and I’ve been a supervisor since 1984.
I allocate the work.
“ We have seven electricians, one person who is employed to change light
bulbs and fluorescent tubes, and another guy who does the electrical
safety testing of all appliances ”
We have seven electricians, one person who is employed to change light bulbs and fluorescent tubes, and another guy who does the electrical safety testing of all appliances.
The guy that does the light bulbs is flat out all the time; you can imagine how important it is to keep the lights going in the wards and operating theatres.
Jobs are requested through our office.
A job card is printed and delivered to my desk and then we allocate jobs, depending on what is urgent.
We are the first line of response when it comes to things electrical.
Typical jobs could be that a circuit breaker has tripped and there is no power; or a steriliser or sanitiser or air conditioner has packed up; or the patient intercoms or call systems aren’t working.
We get called to repair stuff in the kitchen – ovens, mixers, the fridge.
We also look after any faults that develop in the boiler house.
On any one day our usage level is close to 3.5 megawatts. An electric heater is a kilowatt, so the hospital uses the equivalent of the energy required to power 35,000 heaters a day.
What we do is important to the hospital, because if there is no power, things don’t go.
I can remember a few major dramas we’ve dealt with over the years: one night we had a major flood in the Menzies Building which damaged the switchboards, and they had to evacuate ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and HDU (High Dependency Unit).
Another major incident was when the main switchboard of the Elizabeth Rothwell Building blew up and they had to evacuate the newborn unit.
In both instances we were able to identify the problem and get things under control again quickly.
It is like a small town working here. You get to know a lot of people. You perhaps don’t know everyone’s names but you might nod to them or say hi as you pass by.
When I first started here it was like a big family, with lots of new people joining at the same time. I’ve made life-long friendships.
We’ve had some good parties. We had social cricket team, and we’ve been known to challenge other departments to a game of soccer or rugby too.
I’m involved in the hospital revue. There are a group of us called the Prozac Ducks and we do ballet in tutus; we did Swan Lake one year.
We have a huge amount of laughs.
One thing that has changed since I first started is the hierarchical structure; medical staff and matrons were not approachable. But in past years during the hospital revue (chief operating officer) Jan Adams did our makeup, that’s the rapport we have. The hospital management is a lot more approachable now.
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