Broomfield like a battlefield, says doctor

Doctors at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford have spoken of the “battlefield scenario” medics are facing in the fight against COVID-19.

From a period in the first week of December, the hospital’s A&E red zone – where the most serious cases are treated – was seeing cases of COVID-19 once every couple days, explained Ed Hope in his popular vlog – Dr Hope’s Sick Notes. Now Dr Hope speaks of the “sheer number” of COVID-19 patients.

The Emergency Medicine Doctor and Teaching Fellow said: “I read on one of the first vlogs actually from a doctor in Italy saying what it was like to see patients one after another presenting with the same symptoms.”

Dr Hope, in his post on January 9, continued: “X-ray after X-ray are those same horrifying bilateral infiltrates in the lung and that has been my life for the last few days. Every patient we have come in has the same symptoms.

“The shortness of breath, the cough, the fever, struggling for oxygen, struggling to complete sentences.

“And when I first wrote in the first wave it was pretty horrifying.

“It was kind of there in front of you, that something new was here and something new was coming.

“Now it’s the sheer numbers of people you see with it.

“The more patients you see the more tragic stories you see of how COVID is affecting people.

“Some people have waited at home really until the last minute terrified of coming into hospital.

“Other people come into hospital not really knowing that they’ve got COVID and giving them the news can be extremely difficult.

“I’ve had many people become understandably very tearful at the diagnosis.

“They almost wanted to believe something different.

“They are almost in denial about what was happening.

“I’ve seen two people younger than me that have had to come into hospital struggling to breathe.

“It just feels very unnatural and this is coming from someone who’s been an emergency doctor for five years.

“The teamwork that has been at play at the hospital has been “absolutely amazing.”

He added: “Another reflection from that doctor in Italy that I talked about was that he said that we’re all just doctors now.

“And I didn’t really fully understand what he meant until the last couple days because the spirit of everyone – of the staff at the hospital – has been absolutely amazing.”

As part of the fight against coronavirus, hospital departments are being turned over to COVID treatment. For example, the paediatric department has been moved and acts as an ambulatory COVID faculty for people that do not necessarily need oxygen, but need to be assessed.

Speaking three days ago on Dr Hope’s vlog respiratory consultant Steve Jenkins said: “And obviously some of our colleagues are having to work in areas they’re not used to so people have really stepped up.

“So it’s kind of a battlefield scenario.”

Dr Jenkins continued: “I don’t think it’d be any great surprise to say that we have large numbers of COVID patients in the hospital of varying ages – whole wards full. We’re seeing probably a greater proportion of younger patients.

“What’s striking is a lot of young relatively fit healthy people coming in.

“There still are as you’d expect lots of older patients as well but my recollection from the first wave and the bit beyond that was that there was probably a greater proportion of older patients relative to younger patients.”

He added: “No doubt the staff are struggling, I’ll be honest. People are doing their best to get through.

“Everyone’s pretty tired, pretty exhausted. Lots of people are off sick with COVID or self-isolating which means that the pool of staff available is lower and that puts strain on so it is pretty tough.

“But people get through it. It will improve.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter