Christmas on the job
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Dexter Williams, an
Operations Manager and
COVID-19 Team Captain
at the Georgetown Public
Hospital Corporation
(GPHC)
Dexter Williams, an Operations Manager and COVID-19 Team Captain at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC)

By Richard Bhainie

CHRISTMAS DAY is a day when families are gathered, and loved ones are near; when the home is filled and there is nothing but joy in the air. It is a day when most people are away from work, and persons travel from far and near, to be together, to wine and dine and spread the Christmas cheer. But while this might be the tradition engrained in Guyanese Christmas history, some persons spend Christmas day on duty. The Guyana Chronicle reached out to a few essential workers – doctors, nurses, firefighters and prisoner officers, who shared their experiences of spending Christmas on the job. These individuals play an indispensable role in keeping the gears of Guyana grinding. They work tireless and excruciating shifts, to provide services, for the benefit of the public.

THE DAY ON THE JOB

Roddy Denhart, Assistant
Superintendent, currently
serving as the second in
command of the Georgetown
Prison ‘A’

The consensus amongst the professions is that Christmas is a time when the work environment is transformed to accommodate the festivities the day brings. While the Christmas celebrations vary to some extent based on the industry, there remain some similarities. Some of the similarities are the decorating of the offices, the bonding with ‘work family’ and the patients, prisoners and passersby and the special Christmas meals, to make the ambience as close to home as possible.

Dexter Williams, an Operations Manager at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) for the last eight years and recently appointed COVID-19 team captain, has worked on Christmas Day for the last eight years. He disclosed that his department would make donations to various elderly homes and orphanages on Christmas Day, an experience that he looks forward to.

Dr. Shaunell Taitt-Griffith,
a medical officer at the
Accident and Emergency
Ward at the Georgetown
Public Hospital
Corporation

He explained that seeing the smiles on the faces of the individuals at the organisations, fills him with warmth and creates a welcoming atmosphere, which contributes to enlightening his Christmas on the job. Roddy Denhart, Assistant Superintendent, presently serving as the second in command of the Georgetown Prison ‘A’, has been a prison officer for 20 years, 15 of which he spent Christmas on the job. Denhart explained that while Christmas in prison is unique in comparison to the wider

Glyndon Griffith, acting
Section Leader of the Fire Preventions Department

society, his team makes it as homely as possible for the inmates.

At the prison the day begins at 05.00 hours, where preparations are made for the special breakfast, after which there are a list of activities the inmates partake in, such as domino competition, football competition, poetry and caroling. At the Guyana Fire Service while the Christmas spirit is fostered, they limit it, as the officers have to remain on “high alert” for any eventuality the day may bring.

AWAY FROM FAMILY, BUT WITH FAMILY

Dewon Richmond, a
Staff Nurse and Midwife
at the Neonatal Intensive
Care Unit (NICU) at the
Georgetown Public Hospital
Corporation (GPHC)

Family is considered utmost amongst the list of imperative things on Christmas Day, and while these individuals will be spending Christmas away from their biological family, their work family is as equally as important to them. Franka Thomas, Section Leader attached to the General Office at the Guyana Fire Service, has been in the service for 15 years, to which she spent seven Christmases on the job.

Franka Thomas, Section
Leader attached to the
General Office at the Guyana Fire Service

Thomas, a mother of four, highlighted the importance of family within the Guyana Fire Service. She shared that the togetherness within the service somewhat mitigates from being with her biological family on Christmas Day. She also explained that when persons sign up to join the Guyana Fire Service, they are well aware that it is a 24-hour job and, as such, they would be able to prepare themselves and their families for the reality of the job. Similar sentiments were shared by professionals in the medical field and the Prison Service. They took an oath to execute their duty, and it will be done to the best of their ability.

A MEMORABLE CHRISTMAS ON THE JOB

While duty takes away from the activities of the day, some experiences have stuck with these service men and women, that they cherish and help them to get through the job on holidays. Assistant Superintendent Denhart explained to this publication that while the Prison Service was planning Christmas for the inmates, to their surprise, the inmates were planning Christmas for them. One Christmas the inmates at the Georgetown Prison presented Denhart and his team with a painting and a paper mache swan, which they worked on secretively.

The gesture by the inmates touched a soft spot in Denhart and he has kept the painting and the craft to this date. Meanwhile, Dewon Richmond, a staff nurse and midwife at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, who is in the medical field for 10 years and has spent five Christmases on the job, also share her memorable moment. Richmond explained that a great joy to her is having experience the birth of a baby on Christmas Day. She recalled a particular situation where the father of a newborn was not expected to be in the country when his wife gave birth. However, to the mother’s surprise, the father appeared and there was great delight that filled the atmosphere. It was an indescribable moment of fulfilment that stuck with Richmond throughout the years.

PLEADING WITH THE PUBLIC

Dr. Shaunell Taitt-Griffith, a medical officer at the Accident and Emergency Ward at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, who has been in the field for three years, to which she spent two Christmases on the job, is pleading with the public to practise safety. Dr. Taitt related that she believes that persons have grown relaxed and comfortable with the idea of COVID-19. She is asking that if while everyone is indulging in the festivities, that they think twice about their actions because not only are they putting themselves at risk but also the health system that faced the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic since March, 2020.

She recommended that persons continue to wear their masks and practise social distancing, and abide by the COVID-19 guidelines. Glyndon Griffith, acting Section Leader of the Fire Preventions Department, an officer of 13 years, who spent 12 Christmases on the job, is asking the public to practise fire safety. He explained that witnessing the grievances of persons who would have lost their property or family to fire is a heart-wrecking moment for him. He is pleading with the public to practise safety and exercise caution during the Christmas season as well as regularly.

He noted that fairy lights are common around Christmas so if persons are going to have those lights installed in their homes, they should ensure that they are used when adults are at home. He recommended that persons do not overload electrical circuits, that they monitor all cooking activities, pay keen attention to children, teach children fire safety and have adults supervise their activities. The individuals mentioned took the opportunity to extend warm season greetings to the Guyanese public, and are encouraging the public at large to continue to be patient as they weather the storm, that is the COVID-19 pandemic.

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