Thanks Health Heroes: A Tribute To Medical Staff Working On The Frontline30 Mar 2020
During these unprecedented times, there’s no one we should celebrate more than those risking their lives and well-being right on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis.
When most of us are staying indoors to decrease the chance of spreading the infection, it takes a different form of bravery from the doctors, nurses and other NHS staff to face up to the pandemic and treat those who are infected. However, with a huge surge of cases expected in the next few weeks, the NHS will be tested to its limits, and the current anxieties of its staff will be realised if the government fails to take the correct measures.
Currently amongst doctors, there are fears over the lack of resources to deal with what experts and scientists have predicted to be the ‘peak’ in coronavirus cases over the next two weeks. These resources include beds, ventilators and protective equipment (PPE) for staff.
But doctors are not only worried about the increase in infected patients coming in, putting a strain on limited resources, but also the risk of them and their families being exposed to the virus. What’s more, the lack of testing available for medical staff is a serious concern that is set to have a detrimental impact on an already difficult to manage situation. Failure to test medical staff means they must self-isolate for two weeks if either they, or any of their family members start to show symptoms, depleting the strength of the workforce further.
The government has responded to these worries and has implemented a number of measures. But the extent to which these will be effective and whether it has come too late is another question. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced an injection of 35,000 more staff into the NHS who include final year medical students as well as retirees to help support the workload.
In terms of hospital beds, the government has promised to provide extra beds and has even set up a 4,000-bed emergency field hospital in London’s ExCeL centre.
It plans to take similar action in Birmingham and Manchester. With regards to availability of ventilators, currently the UK only has 8,000 in operation and experts have predicted that a further 30,000 will be needed to fully mitigate the expected surge in cases.
It is additionally important that doctors and medical staff are themselves equipped with the correct protective equipment to ensure their own health and well-being.
On Wednesday, it was reported that the first British doctors had died from Covid-19. The NHS medical director described this as “a stark reminder to the whole country that we must take this crisis seriously.” Amged El-Hawrani, a 55-year-old ear, nose and throat consultant, died on Saturday at Leicester Royal Infirmary. And Adil El Tayar, 63, an organ transplant specialist, died on Wednesday at West Middlesex University Hospital in London, it was reported. Both had contracted Covid-19.
The deaths of these two medical professionals intensified calls for the government to supply more protective equipment and increase the testing of medical workers. At a press conference, Robert Jenrick announced that over 200 million items of protective kit had been delivered so far to 58,000 healthcare settings.
Despite the worry and frustration being felt by healthcare workers and NHS staff, their services and bravery were saluted by the public last Thursday through the “Clap For Our Carers” campaign in which hundreds of thousands of people in the UK applauded outside their homes in support. The campaign started online and even got the Prime Minister out of Number 10 to clap in solidarity. Landmarks in London, Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh were also lit up.
Several food businesses are offering free or discounted meals for NHS staff, and supermarkets like Asda, Aldi, Iceland, Co-op and others have introduced special opening hours exclusively for NHS and other key workers, as well as the vulnerable.
Cases of the virus in the UK have now surpassed 20,000 with around 1,400 people dead. For the surge in cases that is to come in the next two weeks, the government must listen properly to the concerns of medical workers and NHS staff by implementing the correct policies and supplying enough resources. During this crisis we must not take time for granted. We certainly don’t take our doctors for granted on this day.