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For the love of the work


Across VCH, there are more than 3,000 volunteers and Auxilians working hard and giving up their time for the care of our patients. One of those is Richard Dixon, a retired mechanical engineer dedicated to reducing infection in patients.

“I love doing it,” he tells me with a smile. “It’s about the patient for me…it’s about improving their care.”

Since 2014, Richard has volunteered as part of the Coalition for Healthcare Acquired Infection Reduction (CHAIR Canada), a group of passionate engineers determined to reduced infections in hospitals, doing work that would normally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to the hospital.

Re-engineered rooms

Richard has been assisting Drs. Elizabeth Bryce, Titus Wong, Alexandra Stefanovic and Raewyn Broady in a research project in the Bone Marrow Transplant unit on Jim Pattison’s 15th floor at VGH. The team has re-engineered three rooms with:

  • Copper nickel surfaces (overbed tables, bedrails, sinks, toilet seats)

  • Ultraviolet light that disinfects the bathroom when it is not in use

  • No touch dispensers (gel, soap, water faucet and paper towel)

  • Highly efficient bacterial water filters on the faucets and shower heads

  • Antimicrobial paint on the walls called titanium dioxide

The project (in collaboration with Genome BC and BCCDC) compares the  microbiome of patients, staff, and surfaces in these rooms and regular rooms to determine whether re-engineered rooms can reduce potentially harmful bacteria.

Richard has also helped with environmental infection control projects at Lions Gate Hospital and Richmond Hospital.

“He’s dedicated hundreds of hours to VCH,” says Dr. Bryce. “This kind of expertise is hard to come by and would be very expensive if we had to pay a consultant.”

It’s all worth it

Richard says there are moments when the hours of work are definitely worth it.

“Yesterday, with some other people, we met a patient in the bone marrow transplant – she has leukemia,” the youthful 67 year old says. “She spoke so highly of care she’s received at VGH and this room with copper-covered surfaces, on her bed rail, and UV lights in the bathroom. She was so, so grateful and so positive. After talking to this patient for 20 minutes, I got teary-eyed in the hallway after.”


“You couldn’t pay me all of the money in the world for moments like that.”

National Volunteer Week

National Volunteer Week is April 10 to 16, 2016. Celebrate with us by sharing this story on social media!

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