British Muslim and BAME Doctors At the Forefront of Battling Coronavirus Must Be Acknowledged04 Apr 2020
First doctors in the UK to die of Covid-19 reflect the crucial role that ethnic minority groups play in the functioning of the NHS. All four of the doctors were Muslim and were of Asian, African or Middle Eastern origin.
Considering the NHS is the biggest employer of ethnic minority groups in the UK, it might not come as a surprise that ethnic minority doctors are the first to have lost their battle with Covid- 19. However, this should also be a testament to how crucial the role of BAME (Black, Asian, and minority ethnic) medics is to the NHS and its strength in tackling the crisis that has now gripped the UK for almost a month.
The first doctors to die of the virus – Alfa Sa’adu; Amged el-Hawrani; Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi – were all Muslim and their contribution to their medical profession was “immeasurable” according to the general secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association.
“They were devoted family men, committed senior doctors, and dedicated decades of service to their communities and patients,” he said.
Additionally, Olamide Dada, the founder of Melanin Medics, said that despite the negative media coverage that ethnic minorities are subject to, the details of these doctors on the frontline of the fight against coronavirus shows that they deserved to be treated with respect.
“This shows that they just wanted to serve, their contributions are equally important as the next person, whether they have been born in the UK or not,” she said.
One could even go as far as saying that without BAME groups working in the NHS, the institution would completely collapse, and this is historically true as well. In fact, in the NHS currently, BAME doctors make up almost 50% of the total number of NHS doctors. This is quite a significant number considering that they make up just 14% of the total population of England and Wales, making the NHS the largest employer of BAME groups in the UK.
Other medical professionals to have recently died due to Covid-19 were British-Pakistani nurse, Areema Nasreen, and British-Egyptian doctor and consultant, Mohamed Sami Shousha. Nasreen had graduated as a nurse last year after working as a hospital cleaner for 15 years. The mother of three had used her inspiring story to become a motivational speaker for others looking to pursue their dreams.
Shousha, an honorary professor at Imperial College, wrote more than 290 papers on diagnostic breast pathology, and was 79 at the time of his death. Both inspired many and will be remembered for their brave sacrifices.
Although BAME groups make up 20% of all NHS staff in the UK, the disproportionate deaths of ethnic minority NHS workers due to Covid-19 may reflect some of the larger structural problems of the NHS that have been negatively impacting on BAME groups.
And although the public have shown their thanks for NHS workers, it is of significance that this appreciation remains inclusive. Some have even complained that there has been a lack of recognition of the contributions of minority groups and that the media ‘white-washes’ its coverage of medical staff. This could put a dent in the psychological morale of BAME medical staff.
Racism is also still prevalent in the NHS, as the number of BAME staff reporting bullying, harassment or abuse from patients, relatives or the public rose from 29.1% in 2016 to 29.8% in 2019. It was also found that BAME doctors in the NHS were twice as likely to face disciplinary action.
The fact of the matter is, the NHS, from its beginning, has been maintained and improved by the work of its ethnic minority staff. In its inception after war, Britain recruited for medical staff and nurses from every corner of the empire and so from the very start BAME groups made vital contributions to the health and wellbeing of people in the UK.