Guest article: “we kept asking about masks but we got nothing… We are being used as canon fodder.” But community healthworker worries about vulnerable people she might be infecting
A community healthworker responds to the government’s claim that it has delivered PPE to those on the coronavirus front line. She has asked to remain anonymous.
I work for the NHS in the community, covering quite a large area. Most of our patients are elderly and frail, with underlying conditions.
When this first started the only PPE (personal protective equipment) we had was thin plastic aprons and gloves, the standard PPE in our job. We kept asking about masks, but we got nothing. After a few weeks of begging we had 4 masks in a team of 25 and we were told to wear them only if visiting people confirmed as infected.
We kept asking for more – and kept getting told they were coming. Always coming but never arriving.
Luckily enough for my team we did not have any suspected or confirmed. But we raised the issue that surely if we are going in and out peoples homes, some times with many family members, we are putting them and us at risk.
We don’t know if they or we are asymptomatic and we are carrying it to next patient and the next. But our pleas and reasons fell on deaf ears.
Eventually 3 boxes of masks came, but they were just surgical masks. We asked should we not be wearing FFP3 masks [the standard recommended by the World Health Organisation] but were told “no, surgical masks are NICE [the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidelines”.
But even now we are only wearing them to confirmed or suspected cases. We are still wearing plastic aprons that only partially cover the front of our body, leaving our arms totally exposed and gloves.
We are scared for the patients our families and for us. We will carry on this way because the government know as healthcare professionals we would not desert our patients, We are being used as canon fodder.
The government are telling the over-70s with health problems to isolate for their safety. And then they send us in with no protection for them at all. I’m mad, I’m scared and I’m heartbroken.
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