Hospital concierge offers patients unlimited service
One day, during a meeting in 2006, Monongahela Valley Hospital officials informed employees of plans to hire a concierge.
“I wonder what that person will wear,” one of her peers whispered to Erin Sinko.
“I haven't decided yet,” replied the then-17 year veteran of the hospital staff.
“I knew that position was for me because I'm a true server,” Sinko said. “I like to help other people. It's not about me, it's about serving other people.”
Her profession is to provide “unlimited service.”
While Sinko acknowledged there might be some boundary, in seven years of service to the patients and their families, she has known no limit.
The aftermath of emergency room visits often provide unexpected needs. A patient's bloodied clothing may have to be removed or cut off to treat their wounds, leaving them without something to wear home.
The Clothes Closet, operated by the Presbyterian Church of Charleroi, donates clothes as does a ladies group from Victory Hill, Sinko said.
Rushing out of the house to take a family member to the ER, a visitor finds themselves in the hospital for an extended stay without a charger for a cell phone on its last bar. She has a collection of phone chargers.
Sinko also collects books, magazines, decks of cards, and rosary beads. Recently she arrived at work to find two bags full of jigsaw puzzles.
She also provides personal items such as deodorant, tooth brushes and tooth paste.
When someone requires transportation, she arranges it.
“People come by ambulance but do not think about the ride home,” Sinko said.
She gives directions to delivery truck drivers, especially if an accident has caused an unfamiliar detour.
Because the transit bus stop is located at the top of the hill above the hospital campus, Sinko occasionally walks patrons to the bus stop and even waits with them until the bus arrives.
“I make sure they have enough money for the fare,” Sinko said. If not, the hospital will help them. The hospital helps a lot of people.”
Sinko helps people fill out forms or make an appointment with a doctor.
Sinko recalled calling a dialysis patient who did not show up for an appointment. When the patient did not answer the phone, she made a home visit, finding the patient lying on the floor, unconscious. She called for an ambulance.
Another time, a patient being treated for a heart attack wanted desperately to go home to care for his dog. Sinko arranged for a dog sitter until the person was discharged days later.
She has helped people who have locked their keys in their car, those with a dead battery or who just ran out of gas rushing to the hospital.
She's also arranged for hair dressers for those on extended stays.
One day, Sinko received a telephone call from a woman who said she was digging in her garden when she got a thistle stuck in her eye.
“I tell people if they need anything, call (258-)1444,” said Sinko of her work phone exchange.
“Well instead of calling 911, she called me. I called ophthalmologist doctor (James) Mondzelewski and the ambulance.
“When you move around the hospital, you learn how to be resourceful.”
Sinko is guarded about admitting the volume of requests she fills – as many as 1,000 a month.
“I don't want people to not call me because they think I'm busy,” Sinko said.
“The more people I can help, the better.”
The demands of her job make for long days.
She arrives early each day and often doesn't go home until well after dark.
She may leave the hospital to go help someone, but Sinko takes her computer home with her.
“Because I smile, people think it's simple,” Sinko said – with a smile.
She has been employed at MVH for 24 years. After starting out in dietary food and nutrition, she worked for seven years in admissions, three years each in medical records and outpatient registration and five days in reservations.
“When I came here, I decided I'd try to learn one new name every day,” Sinko said.
“Now, if I do not know how to help someone, I know someone who can.
“Relationships are more important than money.”
Sinko said her husband, a retired tool and die maker from RTS in Charleroi, is very supportive of her profession, and the demands of the job.
“I could never do this without my husband, Frank,” Sinko said. “He's very unselfish. I attend a lot of public functions.
“The more friends I make, the more people I can help.”
A 1977 Mon Valley Catholic High School graduate, she attended Penn Commercial.
But Sinko was comfortable in her role as a mother of three.
“I was going to be a housewife and mother,” Sinko said.
“I came to Mon Valley Hospital with the intent of working until the kids went to school.
“This is a good place for a housewife to work.”
Her children are now grown and Sinko is a grandmother.
Her daughter, Bridget Leyda, lives in Somerset Township with her husband, Greg, and their son, Ryan.
Her other daughter, Leah Anderson, lives in Monongahela, with her husband, Mike, and their children, Evan and Tyler.
Her son, Michael, lives in the South Hills with his wife, Nancy.
One former hospital patient who was moving a barn used a piece of roof slate to make a special thank you.
The piece of art, inscribed, “Because Nice Matters,” sits on Sinko's desk, located near the entrance to the hospital.
“Everybody who comes through the front door is either a family member or a friend, so we take care of them,” Sinko said. “Without them, we wouldn't be here.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.