Cllr Pauline George on shift as a nurse in an ICU (left) and in a care home (right)
Cllr Pauline George on shift as a nurse in an ICU (left) and in a care home (right)

Cllr Pauline George is a nurse working in an Intensive Care Unit, and is a councillor in Herne Hill ward. This is an update from Cllr George of her experiences working on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

I have worked the last three weekends in Intensive Care Units and it has been hard work. In my over 30 years of working for the NHS I can honestly say that I have seen nothing like this before. The Intensive Care Units across 2 hospitals I have been working in were so busy that additional wards and spaces had to be made available, yet the patients kept coming and these extra spaces were soon taken up. There is a real risk of people not only dying due to direct effect of coronavirus but indirect effect of death due to overwhelmed NHS

Personal protective equipment (PPE) still remains inadequate. I hope that the government gets to grip with it as those of us working on the front line need to be properly protected from contamination.

From what I have seen of the virus it can affect people in different ways. Some people have only mild symptoms whereas others exhibit severe symptoms that requires life support with ventilator. Scientists are still trying to understand why coronavirus affects people in different ways – from mild, to moderate, to severe: However, it is suggested that the effect of coronavirus on individuals can be due to genetics DNA, physics, virology level or the strength of individuals’ immune system. There is so much that still remains unknown.

What we do know is that heartbreakingly, some people are dying lonely deaths because they are not able to have their families by their bed. No loved ones nearby to hold their hands and say goodbye.

I worry sometimes because I have not been tested and none of my colleagues have either, and we are looking after patients who are covid-19 positive. We trained to save lives but not to jeopardise our own. I hope the government would hasten testing to front-line staff as a matter of priority rather than just promising.

As well as working as a nurse in an ICU, I am a registered general nurse, and have a great deal of experience in different specialties. Recently, I was called for a 12 hour shift in a 48 single occupancy rooms, 3 floors nursing home in south London, where one floor with 15 rooms was converted to a floor for residents suffering from covid -19. The protective clothing provided was inadequate.

Staff were courageously struggling with no proper support. For anyone that works in health or social care, residents are like family members due to the fact these we have cared for and spent a considerable amount of time with them. I found myself consoling and reassuring some carers when they informed me how sad they were because two residents died of covid-19 and the fear that more would die. They were also worried that some of the staff may end up infected. As well as having to look after those residents with covid-19 symptoms, the staff are also looking after residents with other medical conditions, such as dementia.

You have to be resilient, hardworking and conscientious to work diligently in a care home. I was so totally exhausted after the 12 hour shift that I had to cancel my shift in ICU the next day. Nursing home workers should be celebrated, thanked and protected just as much as our NHS workers.

Please – observe social distancing and follow the guidelines on staying safe during the coronavirus pandemic. Stay home, save lives, protect our NHS and key workers.

Cllr Pauline George

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