Intensive care doctor: why carry on treating Covid patients if people won't wear masks?

31 December 2020, 17:08 | Updated: 31 December 2020, 17:11

By Megan White

An exasperated intensive care doctor who called LBC towards the start of the pandemic in March contacted Shelagh Fogarty today to ask why he should carry on treating Covid patients if people aren't wearing masks in public.

Dr Jack, an intensive care consultant at a London hospital, told Shelagh of an incident where he saw a member of the public enter a petrol station without a mask.

Jack asked the question: "How does he know he hasn't killed someone?" and added "what is the point of us going in day after day after day, facing this nightmare, if he can't put a mask on?"

Read more: Public warned to stay at home on New Year's Eve as Covid cases reach all-time high

Dr Jack previously called LBC in March, when he told Tom Swarbrick that hospitals were "facing a tsunami" just three days before the national lockdown - and says things are worse during this wave of the pandemic.

The consultant spoke as the UK recorded a new daily high of 55,893 coronavirus cases and 964 deaths.

He told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty: "Really it is pretty bad.

A patient arrives at Southend University hospital in Essex after hospitals in the county declared a major incident
A patient arrives at Southend University hospital in Essex after hospitals in the county declared a major incident. Picture: PA

"I did ring back in March and spoke to Tom Swarbrick when this all kicked off the first time, and I said then that we were facing a tsunami, and in fact three days later we locked down, and we know what happened after that.

"I'm saying the same thing is now happening again, except this time it's worse.

"It's not just that it's winter - in March, none of the medical staff had Covid, none of the staff were self-isolating, none of their kids had Covid and they had to self-isolate.

Read more: Nightingale hospitals across England being 'readied' for use as Covid patient numbers rise

"So we're way down on staff, I'd say a third are off at any one time."

Dr Jack continued: "This New Year's Eve I'm going to go to bed early, because I'm on tomorrow, I was on all over Christmas - we're all knackered.

"I just want to ask a question really - I've been thinking about ringing in again, but the thing that made me ring in is I went to get petrol and I came out of the petrol station, and as I was walking out, a guy ran in not wearing a mask.

"Every single person that is lying on a ventilator in my ICU, by the way, a couple of days ago me and a colleague said the last rites to somebody because their priest couldn't come into the hospital to do it, so one of my colleagues and I did it.

"The patients aren't old - I'm in my 50s and a lot of them are younger than me. I've already lost colleagues.

"Everyone who's in my ICU has been infected by somebody.

"That guy ran in, there were three or four other people in there without his mask on, how does he know that he hasn't killed somebody, that he's not going to kill that person that he breathed over?

"The question I want to ask is what is the point of us going in day after day after day, facing this nightmare, if he can't put a mask on?

"What is the point in us carrying on with this?"

He also said he "didn't think people know what overwhelming the NHS means," adding: "What that means is that when my 60 beds have gone, the overwhelming thing is what do I do with the 61st person?

"What decision do I make? Who's going to make that decision? Do I put your dad on a ventilator and take someone else's dad off a ventilator?

"That's what overwhelming means."