An experienced hospital consultant admits he feels “helpless and unprepared” for the onslaught of coronavirus cases coming his way over the next few weeks.
Dr Raja Biswas, consultant physician at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant, said essentials like masks and gowns are in short supply despite the best efforts of manufacturers, suppliers and the Welsh Government.
He stressed that he felt “honoured” to be working with such dedicated doctors, nurses and other staff in such trying circumstances.
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board said it has been busy training staff for an expected influx of severely unwell Covid-19 patients.
Last week it announced it has increased its intensive care capacity at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, which has already lost one patient to Covid-19, by more than 200%.
“I have worked in the NHS for nearly 25 years now but never in my medical career have I felt so helpless and unprepared,” said Dr Biswas.
“I can see a giant wave of disease and illness coming towards us, but there is very little that any of us can do to get out of its way.
“All we can do is prepare and then improvise when the worst comes.”
Dr Biswas said that despite there being a seemingly endless number of “experts” on Covid-19, it is nearly impossible to prepare for a disease which has only been in existence for four months.
“There are no medicines or operations yet to stop this virus,” he added.
“The disease has behaved differently in China compared to Italy. No one can be confident that the steps taken in China may work in Italy or in UK due to different demography, population or size of the country and political beliefs as well as health service structure.
“There is huge economic cost for any society when a lockdown is contemplated. This is an issue which has medical, economic, social and most importantly human implications.”
He added that the surge in demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) is difficult for suppliers to fulfil.
“Everyone is innovating and trying to work around the problem to come up with a solution,” he said.
“The Welsh Government has been very supportive, and the frontline staff are having the Covid-19 testing done, whilst friends in England, as of today, are still waiting for this. In no way can I fault the support given by politicians during this crisis.”
Dr Biswas added that he has been truly impressed by the dedication of NHS staff to help out during this healthcare crisis.
He added: “I am yet to come across anyone who has stepped back from fulfilling their duty and responsibility.
“Everyone is going that proverbial extra mile to fight this virus. I know of staff who are pregnant but who are doing anything to help as they can’t have direct patient contact. I know of staff who have cancelled their leave to come and work every day in the frontline.
“I meet staff who only ask me ‘what can I do and how can I help?’ No hesitation, no doubt in their mind.
“It may appear at times to people watching from outside that nothing is happening and no one is doing anything, but believe me the NHS is like the duck which serenely glides across the water, whilst paddling furiously below the surface.”
But he admitted that the public also need to play their part by adhering to social distancing and self-isolation when required.
“But to win this war – and it is a war – against this virus we need the public to work together with us,” he added.
“We need to follow the government advice on social isolation. This is vital. Going out in a crowded area for non-essential things keeps the virus active and deadly.
“We need people to avoid coming to hospital unless it’s absolutely urgent. If you have a relative, please nominate one family member for telephone enquiry so that the reduced number of nurses are able to care for the patient.
“If you can support your loved ones at home please do so, as being at home is probably safer for the elderly, and it will allow the very ill patient with Covid-19 to be admitted.
“All staff will try their best, as they always do, but the expectation of care may have to change as well. We have to take more responsibility about our own health.”
He concluded by stating that coronavirus was this generation’s “Dunkirk moment”.
“We need to work and support each other. However, whatever happens I am proud to have worked with bunch of people in the NHS, who has shown the best of humanity under very trying circumstances and whom I can proudly say are my comrades and friends.
“I can’t wish for anything more.”