'We won’t all make it through this' - the unvarnished diary of a Scots medic on the frontline of virus fight
As the coronavirus crisis deepens and Scotland’s hospitals come under increasing pressure, one of country’s leading doctors is writing an unvarnished insider’s diary of life on the front line wards.
We have agreed to keep their identity anonymous to protect their position. For that reason alone, some of the details of geography and names may be changed, but otherwise it will remain unaltered.
The diary will be regularly updated as our doctor’s workload allows in the days and weeks ahead
This is the first entry:
‘Currently we’ve got about a fifth of the workforce stuck at home unable to work either because they’ve got mild cold symptoms, or they’ve got a kid who once sneezed.
Another fifth of us are wandering the wards pretending to ourselves that we aren’t sick and haven’t had any symptoms at all, but must be immune due to overdosing on vitamin C. The rest of us would currently lick a used catheter bag just to get it and be off for a week or two.
Everybody wants to have had it. Unfortunately, none of us will know as getting a staff member tested has been made almost impossible due to the NHS’ passion for petty bureaucracy.
Form after form needs submitted. They all need signed off by a secretary (who is working remotely from home on a medieval NHS IT link) and then a manager.
We mysteriously haven’t seen one of them near the trenches since the patients started to test positive, despite the tabloids constantly telling us that we are over employing them. The more optimistic among us would hope that all the hospital’s admin staff are too busy hunting down PPE to deal with testing.
If you are one of the lucky few – like Matt Hancock – who makes it as far as testing, you can look forward to having a swab rammed into your throat till you gag and up your nose until your brainstem tingles. It’s a lot less fun being on the business end of a cavity being swabbed.
Afterwards you’ll be invited to return to work as soon as you hit a week off, regardless of the result, as there just aren’t enough of us at the best of times.
Most of the staff swabbed are coming back negative too. Even once they’ve had a week off on “special leave”, they’ll still need to be off again when they finally do get sick with it. This fills clinical managers with dread. Fewer boots on the ground increases the stress on the rest of us. This reduces our individual and organizational immunity.
There is also the unspoken covenant. The hospital won’t mention what happens if you get really sick as long as you don’t ask. The sums are simple – hospitals are big employers with thousands of employees. With a conservative 1 per cent mortality that means we won’t all make it through this.
The testing provides reassurance – reassurance that some of us have had it and got better, some of us have it and will get better, and the lucky few will avoid it altogether and stay well.
The priority for the NHS in Scotland now has to be widespread staff testing to get us back to work and reassure us proletariat that someone cares. The result makes a difference to us even more than for patients. Nobody gets treated without us.
These are testing times for all of us but unfortunately it’s not testing time for all of us.’