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Top Welsh doctor reveals staff break down in tears 'watching five or six die on some days' on Covid front line

19 January 2021, 15:16 | Updated: 20 January 2021, 09:49

Daniel Bevan

By Daniel Bevan

One of Wales’ top doctors has told LBC staff are in tears on a daily basis as they fight coronavirus on the front line.

Dr David Hepburn is an intensive care consultant at the Grange Hospital in Cwmbran, South Wales.

It’s part of the Aneurin Bevan Health Board which has been one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

For the last seven days, the health board has had no retaliated ICU beds available, although due to surge capacity they’ve been able to adjust their maximum occupancy.

Read more: Scotland's lockdown to continue until at least the middle of February, says Sturgeon

Speaking exclusively to LBC, Dr Hepburn said: “We’re still very much fighting fires throughout the health board.

“We are well over our commissioned critical care capacity and we’re having to make-so with makeshift beds.

“That’s obviously effecting our ability to operate functionally but we still have space and people who need critical care are getting it, but it makes it a lot more difficult for us to deliver that.

“It’s meant we’ve had to hoover up a lot of staff from other areas of the hospital.”

And now it has been revealed it’s taking a toll on their staff, some of which are said to be reduced to tears every day.

Dr Hepburn said: “We just need to try and get through this. As a team and as a hospital we need to look after as many patients as we can.

“There will be time later on when we can heal the wounds but at the moment we’re focused on giving people the tools they need to just get through this.

“I think there will be a huge fallout. I’m seeing medical and nursing staff crying on a daily basis.

“The pressures are enormous and going into work and seeing five or six patients dying a day, sometimes, it is taking a toll.

“Intensive care is an area where we seeing lots of people die, unfortunately, because of the line of work we do.

“But the volumes we’re seeing are really something else and it’s very easy to become quite despondent.

“You have people who, through no fault of their own, after they go off to sleep, a lot of them aren’t waking up again.

“It’s taking a huge toll on the staff. All we want is to see people getting better and going home but the longer this goes on for, the more patients we’re going to lose.”

Dr Hepburn says currently, around half of all the patients who come into ICU with coronavirus and need ventilation are dying in hospital.

He said: “There’s just tragedy every day. Some of these patients are lovely people and they’re scared.

“You can do your best to reassure them but it’s really 50/50 at the moment, about whether those patients will wake up again.”