UK healthcare workers have been risking their lives and health caring for Covid patients without adequate protection from the start of the pandemic, according to Long Covid Doctors for Action chairman Dr Kelly Fearnley.
She says a significant number are now disabled following preventable occupational exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and are being managed out of the door with no support system in place and without means to financially support themselves and their families.
Not only have they lost their health and independence but they have lost their careers and livelihoods, ‘with many now facing financial destitution’.
Dr Fearnley gave this message: ‘One would think, given the circumstances under which we fell ill and current workforce shortages, NHS employers would be eager to do everything to facilitate the return to work of people with long Covid.
‘However, NHS employers are legally required to implement only “reasonable adjustments”, and so things such as extended phased return or adjustments to shift patterns are not always being facilitated. Instead, an increasing number of employers are choosing to terminate contracts. We feel betrayed and completely abandoned.
‘Infection control guidelines are fundamentally flawed: SARS-CoV-2 is airborne. It is outrageous that three-and-a-half years into this pandemic, staff and patients are still, knowingly and repeatedly, being exposed to a level-3 biohazard – a virus known to cause brain damage and significantly increased risk of life-threatening blood complications even in those recovered.
‘Healthcare workers must be provided with respiratory protection and the air quality in hospitals be monitored and improved through the installation of ventilation systems and air filter units.’