LONDON (AP) — Hospitals on Monday slammed Britain’s government for its failure to give medical staff appropriate clothing and equipment to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, arguing that it is time for action and not words.
British medical personnel have complained for weeks that the ongoing debacle in getting the right equipment to the right people is forcing doctors to put their own lives in danger to treat the sick in an outbreak that has already claimed 16,060 lives in the U.K. Some hospitals suggest they will soon run out of surgical gowns, and report chronic problems in obtaining other items, such as eye protection.
With shortages evident, the failure of a shipment of some 400,000 surgical gowns to arrive as promised over the weekend has exacerbated tensions in a system under strain, said Niall Dickson, the CEO of the NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across healthcare.
“There was already a loss of confidence and real anxiety across the NHS and care system around PPE supply — this will have been further eroded by what has happened this weekend,’’ Dickson said. “It will not be restored until we have a stable supply chain and certainty that staff will be given what they need when they need it. At the moment we are a long way from that point.’’
Fresh advice has been issued to doctors on using — or reusing — gowns until the bleak scenario can improve.
Arguing that such vital equipment is in high demand globally, Britain’s government has been promising to get supplies moving. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC he’s hopeful “that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.”
The British government signaled over the weekend that new efforts were being established to secure a more reliable supply chain. Paul Deighton, the former 2012 London Olympics chief executive, has been appointed to lead the national effort.
Doctors, meanwhile, are increasingly agitated, and some are even daring to speak out despite pressure from some hospitals to be more guarded on their social media accounts and not to speak to the press.
Dr. Meenal Viz staged a one-woman protest on Sunday to express her dismay with the state of affairs. Viz, who is six months pregnant, said she was motivated to speak out amid the deaths of dozens of health workers.
“I have never felt a fear like this ever in my life. I’ve never lost so much sleep in my life,” she said of working in such conditions. “Our job is to save lives. Our job is not to source protective equipment for ourselves.”