Socialist Worker

Health workers die in lack of equipment ‘national scandal’

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2698

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Health workers need more than just a round of applause (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The first health workers in Britain have died due to ­coronavirus in a sign of the horrors to come for a woefully underfunded NHS.

Amged el-Hawrani, a doctor based in Leicestershire, died after testing positive for Covid-19 at the ­weekend. His case follows the deaths of London-based surgeon Adil el-Tayar and Essex GP Habib Zaidi. 

Meanwhile, West Midlands nurse Areema Nasreen was fighting for her life in intensive care after ­contracting coronavirus. 

Health workers fear that more of their colleagues will die ­without the proper personal protective ­equipment (PPE). 

Abebi, a health care assistant at the Whittington Hospital in north London, says workers are “very worried” about workplace conditions. 

“You see on the TV people ­wearing the full clothing, but that’s just not the case for us,” she told Socialist Worker. 

“We wear just the plastic aprons, gloves and single use masks.”

Abebi said the lack of proper PPE meant “some people are not coming” to work because they fear catching the virus or because they are self-isolating.  

Financially

“It’s very, very tough at the minute,” she added. “Some people don’t even go on a break during their shift. 

“It’s not enough to have clapping for health workers, the government should help to relieve us financially. 

“They should check all the staff for coronavirus.”

Outrage forced the Tories to announce limited testing for ­frontline health workers.

Anxious, exhausted and angry—health workers speak out
Anxious, exhausted and angry—health workers speak out
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But testing will be reserved for staff who display symptoms of coronavirus or who live with people who have symptoms. This is a far cry from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) mantra of, “Test, test, test,” to stop the spread of the virus. 

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet medical journal, slammed the Tory government’s ­coronavirus strategy as “nothing short of a national scandal” in a devastating article

“We should not be in this ­position,” he said. “We knew in the last week of January that this was coming. 

“We then wasted February when we could have acted, could have got personal protective equipment ready and disseminated.” 

Horton singled out the problem of equipping workers with the correct PPE. 

“I’m hearing that not only is PPE not available, it’s the wrong kind of PPE and what we have isn’t even WHO standard,” he said.

“The hypocrisy of clapping NHS workers and yet the government not supporting them to go into that frontline is tragic and it was preventable.”

Unions have been far too slow to demand proper PPE and mass ­testing, fearing they would lose their seats at the top table alongside bosses and ministers. 

But growing demands from rank and file workers to demand higher quality masks and clothing in trusts could spur the unions into action.

Abebi is a pseudonym

Privatising the Nightingale

The Tories didn’t waste any time to use a makeshift NHS hospital in east London to hand out money to big business.

They are building Nightingale hospital in the Excel conference centre in Canning Town, with plans for around ten other sites across Britain, including in Birmingham and Manchester. 

One of the firms that has been given a contract is outsourcing giant ISS.

At nearby Lewisham hospital in south east London, the firm still hasn’t coughed up unpaid wages to some of the lowest-paid support staff weeks after the payments were due. 

Some cleaners, domestics and porters were not paid properly on 27 February and walked out unofficially when this wasn’t rectified in March.

It’s time to kick out the privatisers, scrap the whole “internal market” in the NHS and spend the money on workers, patients and equipment. 


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