Coming home to his kids is the antidote to stress brought by the pandemic
Dr Harmandeep Singh wearing his full PPE and respiratory hood
An Ealing hospital doctor has described how coming home to play with his young children has been his “antidote” to working during the pandemic as he fears staff are struggling to cope with the pressures.
Dr Harmandeep Singh never imagined he would continue to be battling coronavirus nearly a year on, in a second wave of the disease that is worse than anyone thought it could be.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service on January 13, the cardiology consultant said the hospital was starting to see the number of cases go down due to lockdown having an impact.
But he warned what could happen if it gets worse, saying, “For everyone, patients are a top priority but it is also equally important for staff safety as well.
“Because all of this work is having a physical and mental toll on them and as an organisation, the NHS can cope and will cope, but on a personal level I think staff may not be able to cope with more pressures than what they’ve been through in the last year.
“People need to understand they need to really think before whatever they do.”
Describing what’s helped him through his long hours on the frontline, the father-of-two said: “The kids have kept me going. We do end up doing little projects together, like deliveries you get for cardboard boxes – we’ll make something – for example a castle out of a cardboard box, or a house.
“When I’m here they’re like ‘let’s play hide and seek’.
“That’s what it is really, my antidote to everything, come home and play with the kids.”
The hospital’s operation lead for Covid is also worried that in the second wave his staff are seeing higher levels of abuse and anger levelled against them by relatives, or people frustrated at cancellations which is “demoralising staff”.
He said, “I speak to juniors, I speak to colleagues, this is one of the common things that has come up and gets passed on to me. It’s been getting worse…
“People have a right to be informed but…venting your anger and frustrations at us is probably not the best way.”
Dr Singh added: “The circumstances are beyond anyone’s control.”
On one occasion, Dr Singh himself called up a relative to tell them about a patient’s deteriorating condition, and they shouted back “you are deliberately trying to do this”.
He said, “It’s against our professionalism to even think or do anything like that.”
The second wave of coronavirus has seen Ealing hospital hike from having a few patients in single digits to expanding the capacity to all but one-and-half wards to treat coronavirus patients again.
Dr Singh with his team before the latest wave of the virus
This peak, the youngest patient Dr Singh has seen was 27-years-old, but he is positive that the hospital is discharging around eight people a day to go home, and treatments are becoming more effective.
Dr Singh has also described what it’s like to wear a respiratory hood, which is designed unlike other PPE to be worn over a turban.
According to the Sikh doctor, the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust – which runs Ealing hospital – had kept the adapted PPE specifically for people of the Sikh faith so they can wear full PPE.
Before they were made available in April, Dr Singh had to strap a standard hospital mask used by other staff around his neck, as it was too tight to put around his turban.
He’s thankful the special hood, which is battery powered, gives him more space around his face so he has avoided the nasty cuts and scars other NHS staff have suffered from the tight equipment.
But he added: “It’s like a helmet but then you’ve got this cold air blowing into your nose which does make me sneeze quite a lot actually, but that’s the only thing. I still feel it’s better [than the other mask].”
And in a climate of fake news and misinformation, Dr Singh is urging people not to believe everything on social media and “trust the scientists” over the vaccine.
The 37-year-old described his own experience of having the jab on Christmas Day, and went straight into work the next day “no problems at all”.
He said: “People should not be scared to have the vaccine…
“The vaccine is the solution to the whole problem.
“That’s the only way we can come back to where we were pre-Covid.”
January 20, 2021