As we self-isolate, our healthcare workers on the front line face the very real threat of being infected by the disease they want to treat. One doctor shares her fears and concerns.
A great deal of appreciation has been shown to our National Health System in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are clapped for, offered free food, given discounted material goods and receive appreciation from people we don’t know. It is uplifting and heartening.
Yet, this does not lessen the fear and anxiety that I see in my colleagues’ eyes daily. Unfortunately, they still lack one fundamental need to keep safe, a need that would supersede all gifts - Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
This keeps me awake at night. I worry about my friend who is going to perform CPR on a COVID-19 patient with a surgical mask. My colleague who has not yet been FIT tested* and will be on the cardiac arrest team this week. The visors that don’t cover my face and keep falling off. Although, I should be grateful they are here now. My senior who is told not to wear an FFP3 mask to see a patient that is coughing whilst on a nebuliser - it’s not aerosol generating they say.
"Yet, this does not lessen the fear and anxiety that I see in my colleagues’ eyes daily."
The guidance on PPE is confusing and conflicting. But, we are assured, more PPE is on its way.
I feel grateful but angry, we had time to prepare for this. Some hospitals have held fundraisers to purchase adequate PPE. I thought this was a national system? Why are there so many discrepancies in availability? Why is there insufficient PPE? Why do Public Health England guidelines differ from the World Health Organisation recommendations?** Is the PPE we wear enough?
A decade of underfunding the NHS had already brought the system to its knees. So, it is unsurprising that we were not ready for a pandemic – the lack of PPE is just a symptom of a larger problem – a lack of value for our health system and workers. It’s hard not to feel frustrated.
Yet, my colleagues continue to work longer hours, stay away from their families and come to work knowing they are at the highest risk of exposure. They show up because they will always want to help.
"A decade of underfunding the NHS had already brought the system to its knees."
Of course, we appreciate the kind gestures that businesses and individuals have shown us. The public and media have also been supportive in voicing concerns, mobilising change and creating action. However, the time taken to resolve this situation is not acceptable, because we are placing lives are at risk when we don’t provide adequate PPE.
What do I hope for in the future? Please follow the public health advice and stay at home. Stand by us and listen to our concerns, not just now but in the future too. Elect politicians that invest in the NHS. Use the system and resources wisely. We will always be here for you. Please support us too.
This is dedicated to all those healthcare professionals across the world who have fought bravely and paid the ultimate price for our safety.
If you are experiencing a similar situation you can raise it with help from the Royal College of Physicians.
(*) It is a legal requirement that tight protective respiratory protective equipment is tested by an accredited FIT tester.
(**) Public Health England have started to adopt World Health Organisation recommendations.
The author would like to remain anonymous.
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