Barnet Hospital consultant: we were well prepared for Covid-19

Jewish doctor David Levy - who features in a BBC documentary airing tonight - said his hospital and the Royal Free in Hampstead have had access to adequate PPE


An elderly care consultant at Barnet Hospital has said that both his hospital and the Royal Free in Hampstead were well prepared the arrival of Covid-19.

Jewish doctor David Levy, who featured in the BBC documentary Hospital: Fighting Covid-19, the second part of which will be aired tonight, told the JC:  “I think the NHS prepared well and braced itself for it. But when it did come the onslaught was pretty rapid. There was a huge upsurge in the number of cases."

He stressed, however, that the hospitals - both are part of the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust - had access to adequate PPE: “At the very outset we were advised by Public Health England to wear protective gear that was pretty intensive to put on and take off, transforming us into sort of astronauts.

"But as time has gone by it’s been decided that a mask, apron and some gloves are adequate. We have to trust the advice we’re given is the right advice."

As medical staff were redeployed to Covid-19 patients, it was “nose to the grindstone” for everyone, said Dr Levy, who has been a consultant at Barnet for 25 years.

Filmed during a three-week period in March and April when the disease was peaking, the documentary combines arresting behind-the scene footage with moving human stories.

One couple featured are Stanley, 73, and his wife Sonia, who had to spend Passover without her husband for the first time in 48 years of marriage while he was being cared for at Barnet. Tragically, Stanley did not survive.

Although Barnet Hospital treats one of the country’s largest Jewish communities, Dr Levy said he had not noticed a disproportionate numbers of Jews among his Covid-19 patients.

“Sadly it’s the elderly population who took a real hit with the virus,” he said.

One of the more fraught aspects of the pandemic has been having to restrict – and even ban – visitors.

Dr Levy said: “We all have families and we have empathy for our patients. In the peak of it all, when the world was pretty crazy, we strongly urged people not to come to hospital to visit. There were instances when families were desperate so we had to be humane – but they understood the risk.”

The hospital is expecting another surge of infections a few weeks after people are let out of lockdown. “If it’s done in a staged fashion I think that’s reasonable. At some point we’re going to have to do it; life has got to get back to normal one day. We’re trying to plan for the worst – which is the best way to tackle it.”

Dr Levy commended the TV crew, who filmed him for about 10 days. “I hardly noticed them. They were sensitive and withdrew when a situation required them not to be there and were very respectful with the patients and didn’t hinder the doctors in any way.

“The documentary shows the real-life ups and down and emotions. It definitely captures a lot of the challenge when we were in the intense moments of the pandemic.”

Hospital Special: Fighting Covid-19 continues at 9pm on BBC2 

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