Coronavirus: Worker reveals lack of protective equipment in Northwick Park Hospital

A frontline worker says that NHS staff have been feeling a “sense of paranoia” due to disorganisation with the handling of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and an influx of Covid-19 patients.

One NHS frontline worker at Northwick Park Hospital has shared his accounts of dealing with people in the Intensive Care Unit.

He claims that while the hospital is now “better” at dealing with patients, confusion within the wards is causing uncertainty to staff.

The Harrow hospital declared a “critical incident” last week due to the rising numbers of coronavirus patients, which lasted for 24 hours before it was stood down.

In a message to staff, the hospital said it has been contacting neighbouring hospitals about transferring patients requiring critical care to other sites, as they did not have enough space.

Critical incident
The frontline worker, who wishes to be anonymous, has been dealing with both suspected coronavirus patients and also confirmed patients at the Intensive Care Unit.

He said: “In the beginning, I don’t think we were prepared to be honest. There was an influx where they all just came in.

“That’s where the PPE problem hit us, because we didn’t have enough as we were overwhelmed. It’s getting a bit better though.”

All staff and patients at the hospital are equipped with some form of protective equipment. A standard kit is issued when symptoms are unconfirmed- consisting of normal surgical masks and an apron to patients and staff.

An ‘enhanced’ kit, involving a secure FFP3 mask with an air-filter, double layered aprons and a visor-goggle, is issued only within the unit where there are confirmed Covid-19 patients.

He continued: “When it all kicked off, people in the beginning were just using everything, because obviously we were panicking.

“But since then, there has been training every day to tell you what you need, how to put on the equipment, and what they do.

“In places like ITU, they have all the equipment there, the issue is with suspected cases more so.

“You could be wearing the wrong PPE without knowing they’re confirmed, other people are saying we should be wearing the enhanced one all the time – but it’s not going to happen.”

Issues with supplies

But some staff have been refusing to conduct operations or treat patients due to the uncertainty behind the amount of protective supplies and what is needed.

He admitted that the changing guidelines from Public Health England is causing a sense of confusion.

In one instance, the worker and his colleague were told that they didn’t have to wear a visor while in ITU. However, after a disagreement, they were offered visors.

He explained: “When we finished, we threw everything away to prevent contamination, but once we came out one of the nurses asked us where our visors were. We explained we threw it away and then the nurse said we have to reuse them.”

After another disagreement, they were given one new visor to share between the two of them – which another nurse later agreed that was the wrong thing to do.

He theorised: “It’s the lack of knowledge – I can’t account if they have all went to the training or not, or if it’s because the guidelines are changing all the time.”

Some wards have taken matters into their own hand, purchasing large stocks of aprons and face masks due to the limited amount at the hospital.

Doctors’ Association UK chairman Dr Rinesh Parmar warned that some NHS staff may feel forced to leave because of the lack of PPE that the World Health Organisation recommends.

Dr Parmar told the Guardian: “But the Government hasn’t kept its side of the bargain with NHS staff by not having enough PPE available to safeguard the health of doctors and nurses.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday that 7.5million pieces of protective equipment have been supplied out to frontline workers in the past day.

How do staff feel?
But the Northwick Park Hospital worker says there is a “sense of paranoia” at the end of every shift.

He said: “You feel like you get the symptoms and that’s really worrying when people get to that mental state.

“At the end, they think they feel they might have a fever or a cough – and that’s like that with everyone I work with to be honest.


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