Hospital's nurses ready to help if third Covid wave comes

Edmund Tabay

Edmund Tabay, deputy chief nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn - Credit: QWH

They've fought their way through two waves of Covid  - and they're ready for a third one if it breaks.

As fears mount that a third wave of the coronavirus is building, one of the region's most senior nurses said the first two had been a steep learning curve for those in the front line as beds filled with patients suffering from Covid.

Edmund Tabay, deputy chief nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, said: "We've had two waves and it's been very challenging but I see on a daily basis the staff commitment here. People want to work because they want to help those patients.

"We've learned something from wave one, we've learned something from wave two when had fewer in intensive care. It is a continual learning process, we learned about PPE, we learned about the skills we needed to develop.

"This is uncharted territory. We've had wave one, we've had wave two, other people have had three. It's really, really difficult to predict what's going to happen."

An image of a staff member looking exhausted from burnout

The health and social care committee has called for "immediate action" to support staff who have worked through the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Staff at the QEH and across the NHS have been battling coronavirus since March, 2020. In the first 12 months of the outbreak more than 1,600 patients with the virus were treated on its wards, some 949 of whom recovered.

At is peak, staff were treating hundreds of people with the virus. The hospital currently does not have any Covid patients.

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Mr Tabay said while some staff had shown signs of Covid fatigue there was counselling and support from colleagues in place at the QEH to help them.

Scientists are calling on Boris Johnson to postpone so-called freedom day, when Covid restrictions are set to be lifted, from June 21 after a steep rise in cases.

Mr Tabay said we are never likely to see the virus disappear completely.

"This is going to be with us forever so as people, so as human beings we have to adapt to that," he said. "We can't be in a position where it's going to stop us doing everything we're doing.

Mr Tabay is one of 200 Filipino nurses working at the QEH. He is also the highest-ranked of all 35,000 Filipinos employed by the NHS.

Students are being urged to check on their vaccines before going to university. Picture: PA

Students are being urged to check on their vaccines before going to university. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

He first came to this country in 2001, with a desire for greater knowledge of how nursing is practised and its influence on the delivery of care.

He grew up on an island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. He earned his nursing degree at West Visayas State University.

"Nursing has always been my passion since I was 12 years old because I admired people in the health care profession," he said. "You are the person in terms of the delivery of care, you are there 24 hours a day as part of the professional group.

"I've always believed nursing is very universal, the reason I came to the UK 20 years ago was to see how it is delivered in a different culture."

Last year, Mr Tabay was awarded a Silver Chief Nursing Officer Award by Ruth May, the chief nursing officer for England, for his efforts in recruiting overseas nurses at the QEH, where around a quarter of the nursing staff are Filipinos.


League of Friends shop at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn reopens - Credit: QEH

"Diversity brings a of of positivity in care," he said. "We're very close knit, you look after the elderly, the sick, the needy - it's all part of the culture.

"If you go to a hospital in the Philippines, you see relatives on the wards all the time because they want to care for them."

Mr Tabay said the QEH had set up extensive pastoral support for foreign workers. As well as recruiting nurses from the Philippines and India, the hospital will soon be able to train people from closer to home when its new nursing school opens at the College of West Anglia.