‘This virus is no joke — Covid-19 kills and that is reality’

‘This virus is no joke — Covid-19 kills and that is reality’ — staff at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust have spoken about their experiences with the deadly virus.

In a video shared at the trust’s board meeting yesterday, Thursday, three staff members told stories of how their jobs have changed and shared feelings, including frustration, sadness and gratitude, about working on the frontline against coronavirus.

One healthcare assistant, Ritchie Devena, who has been transferred to work in emergency care, recovered from symptoms of Covid-19 only to come back to work – looking after patients dying from the virus.

He said: “I had symptoms in April, just a few days after Public Health England announced the new guidance for PPE, which in my opinion was a bit too late for some of us healthcare workers.

“Miraculously, I recovered and eventually was back to work after three weeks, at Wellow Unit, looking after patients who are in their last days of life.

“This was the time where the reality hit me, looking after patients who are dying of the virus.

“In one of my shifts, I was sent to the isolation ward to help look after five patients in a bay who were all Covid positive. I went home that day depressed, I was in tears, a small realisation hit me — seeing patients who are struggling to breathe, even with the high flow oxygen knowing they wouldn’t make it, seeing family members in tears not knowing what to do — thinking this could have been me or my wife a few weeks ago.

“I was angry to see people break the lockdown rules, one thing for sure this virus is no joke — Covid-19 kills and that is reality.”

Pippa, an emergency department assistant, said it was a very difficult time, where everyone is wearing a mask and as she is deaf it is very difficult for her to lip read. However, some of her colleagues have been learning to sign which is a big support to her.

Jay, the staffside lead at St Mary’s Hospital, in Newport, said he knew at the beginning of the outbreak he was going to be needed on the frontline and ended up supporting the community nursing teams in the West Wight.

“There are three things that stick in my mind from my experience,” he said.

“The first thing was the government’s guidelines and PPE — we had PPE on the Island and we had plenty of stock. It was distributed really well, really quickly and efficiently.

“However, the guidance from Public Health England slowed that down in what and when we should be wearing it, causing huge anxieties and stress levels within staff.

“Once we got the guidance and everyone knew what they were doing things were settled and we were able to crack on and do what we needed to do.

“Secondly, I was so shocked how Covid-19 had spread across the care homes on the west of the Island where I was working. It really was a reality check for me and that this was real and not a test.

“Thirdly, how immensely proud I am of our workforce. As staffside lead this is something we encourage – we knew staff would be anxious and worried about working in different areas with different practices but they mobilised, they cracked on and it was absolutely brilliant, I am immensely proud of that.”