Socialist Worker

More health workers die due to lack of protective equipment

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2699

Tories have spent years attacking the health service - their calls to protect the NHS are hypocritical

Tories have spent years attacking the health service - their calls to 'protect the NHS' are hypocritical (Pic: Number 10/Flickr)


Health workers are dying of coronavirus because of the Tories’ failure to provide proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). 

John Alagos, a nurse at Watford General Hospital in Hertfordshire, fell ill during a 12-hour shift and died shortly after going at home last week. 

His mother, Gina Gustilo, said he wasn’t wearing proper PPE and couldn’t go home due to short staffing.

Thomas Harvey, a health care assistant at Goodmayes Hospital in east London, died with Covid-19 symptoms last week.

A friend and former colleague said he had treated a patient with the virus without any PPE. They said, “I’ve spoken to each and every one of his colleagues and everyone is saying that he was not supplied with protective clothing.” 

Walsall nurse Areema Nasreen and Kent nurse Aimee O’Rourke died of coronavirus last week. Doctors Alfa Saadu, Amged el-Hawrani, Adil El Tayar and Habib Zaidi have also died.

The privatisation of the NHS Supply Chain by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Labour ­governments has contributed to the chaos over the distribution of PPE. There are also serious questions over the PPE that is provided.

Workers are worried that what they’re getting is far below the standards recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

One frontline ambulance worker in London told Socialist Worker, “You start a shift with about three to five surgical masks, which are just paper essentially. 

Breathing

“When you’re breathing with the surgical mask on, it frosts up your glasses, so they are not airtight.”

The WHO recommends FFP3 masks to protect against coronavirus. But the worker said, “There are only two FFP3 masks for each vehicle. Once the surgical masks are used up, you drive to a depot, which isn’t necessarily yours.

A show of support for the NHS outside Kings College Hospital in south London

A show of support for the NHS outside King's College Hospital in south London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


“There will be a team leader with a box on their desk, essentially ­guarding it—we are talking seriously low stocks.”

Unions have been slow to make demands because they want a seat at the top table alongside ministers and hospital bosses. 

But grassroots anger over the lack of proper PPE has slowly begun to move them.

Socialist Worker has received reports that nurses at an intensive care unit at a south London hospital have successfully won their demands for proper PPE.

They would not have gone into work without the kit. In Southend Hospital in Essex clinical staff told management they could “limit services” if they weren’t provided with the proper kit.

And the London ambulance worker said there is “a real mutinous mood over the lack of kit”.

Unions should take action against the Tory government responsible for a crumbling NHS.


Tory policy, not people in parks, has caused the crisis

Health secretary Matt Hancock has tried to blame ordinary people for the mounting pressure on the NHS. He wants to distract from the failures of Tory policy. 

He warned people to “stay home, protect the NHS, save lives” or face tougher restrictions on going outside to green spaces last weekend. 

A decade of austerity and privatisation is to blame for an underprepared NHS and the growing crisis. 

Watford Hospital in Hertfordshire became the second hospital to declare a “critical incident” as the coronavirus death toll reached its highest figure last weekend.

Hospital bosses told patients not to go to the accident and emergency (A&E) department because of problems of limited oxygen supply. 

Hospitals are already desperately trying to find more space for patients by discharging others.

Socialist Worker has received reports from one nurse in London of a hospital discharging patients to hotels.

They included homeless people, patients waiting for beds in other hospitals and some with basic social care needs. 

The nurse said some of the hotels were “inappropriate” for people’s care needs, but were booked because they were cheapest.

They feared management would soon ask them to discharge people who need a package of care but don’t have one.

While joining the “Clap for the NHS” on Thursdays, the Tories are not putting in the resources that are needed. And to add insult to injury, Hancock said “now is not the time” to talk about giving health workers a pay rise

But he showed that austerity was a political choice by wiping off around £13 billion worth of NHS debt last week.

The idea that public services should have debt is a product of privatisation, marketisation and running hospitals like businesses. 

Now is the time to push for a properly funded, privatisation-free NHS. 


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