Dispatches from the front

Eerily quiet before second wave – don’t reopen schools!

A park notice during coronavirus lockdown, London, 10.5.20, photo JB

A park notice during coronavirus lockdown, London, 10.5.20, photo JB   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

An NHS health professional

“Don’t use the Q-word” has been said more than once this week. But it does feel eerily quiet.

We have now reorganised yet again as most of our patients are classified as ‘cold’, and intensive care is only half full. All the extra capacity created early on is now empty, but no one is suggesting we dismantle any of it, as we fully expect it to be needed when we are hit by the second wave. And we do still have an entire floor of Covid-positive wards.

We are working with the local private health sector to restart urgent work, particularly orthopaedics. But they call the shots, and we have to step in when they don’t have the right staff or equipment – it’s chaotic, and their priorities don’t put patients first.

There are lots of work issues arising from the crisis. Staff who are self-isolating being forced to take annual leave is just one of them.

Schools fear

But the issue staff are most concerned about is reopening schools. Some of our kids have been attending school throughout, but others are home with partners juggling between shifts. We know the care we take using PPE for every patient, regardless of symptoms.

So how the hell will teachers manage without apron, gloves, mask and visor? It’s madness, and many just won’t send their kids.

At the beginning of this pandemic, we felt we were lambs to the slaughter, as most health workers experienced the acute lack of resources. But now it’s like we have all the protection, and the workers outside are being forced back to work without any of the PPE we’ve fought for.

We say to the rest of our community: if it’s not safe, don’t return to work or school – stay safe, join the union, and get organised to fight back.