David does more than patch and paint


David the Painter. That could nearly be David Johnston’s real name. As the painter at St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, David’s cheery disposition brightens the day of all those he meets.

With 2021 designated as the Year of the Health and Care Workers by the World Health Organisation, we pay tribute to the ‘behind the scenes’ staff like David whose work is more than just patch and paint.

David began his career as a law clerk, way back when, but after a few years, thought he’d be of more use doing a trade. He loved working with his hands, especially painting old Queenslanders and found enormous satisfaction in bringing grand buildings to life.

“I had an older mentor whose mantra was ‘the better the preparation, the better the result – don’t cut corners’,” David said.

“It’s something I stand by to this day. Sanding back a house, getting it ready before a paint takes a long time but a job well done is pleasing to the eye,” he said.

David had never worked in a hospital before starting at St Andrew’s in 2019.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started, but I was keen to learn,” David said.

“Turns out there’s always something to paint!

“I’m working around staff and patients which is the best part. If you can put a smile on a patient’s face, then it’s been a good day.

“When people are in hospital, they’re often not at their best. I’ve had family members quietly come and thank me for having a laugh with their loved one when they hadn’t had a good day.

“Who would have thought a painter could make a difference to someone like that?” he said.

With 6am starts and being part of an on-call roster, no two days are the same for David.

“I also help the other trades if they need assistance with jobs which is interesting to see – sometimes I’m a ‘plumber’ or ‘handyman’,” David said.

For hospital General Manager Mairi McNeill, David is an incredibly valued member of the team.

“David is a wonderful member of our team and the whole maintenance crew enrich our workforce,” Ms McNeill said.

“Everyone knows who David and the team are. Their willingness to help and positive attitude make a world of difference in a busy hospital,” she said.

For David, being a painter in a hospital during a pandemic, was a strange experience.

“I was able to get my jobs done faster than normal because there were less people in the hospital – how many people can say that?” David laughs.

“When visitors weren’t allowed for a long period of time last year, patients were happy to have some company and a chat.

“I’m not sure who enjoys those moments more, the patients or me,” he said.