Doctor documents pandemic at Queen’s Hospital

A doctor working at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust, serving the area with the highest COVID infection rates in the country has documented the experiences of intensive care staff to show the “terrifying” toll the pandemic has had on the NHS.

Orthopaedic registrar Karen Chui joined the intensive care unit at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, during the second wave of COVID-19.

Dr Karen Chui

The amateur photographer captured colleagues as they struggled to deal with the huge number of patients flooding into the hospital every day.

She said: “Nearly half of our inpatients had COVID, and sadly many died. We weren’t the only hospital to have ambulances queuing during particularly busy times. I found it tough seeing our A&E department fill up with patients needing to be intubated when I did shifts there. The terrifying effects of COVID-19 rippled through every area of our hospitals.

“We could see how real this was, however, due to visiting restrictions, the public couldn’t. During the peak of the second wave when we were at our busiest, there was very little media presence allowed in hospitals.”

Queen’s Hospital is part of BHRUT, which serves some of the communities hardest hit by the virus. The areas became known as the COVID triangle after consistently recording the highest COVID infection rates in the country during the peak of the second wave.

Ms Chui said the prolonged pandemic had a huge toll on NHS staff personally, professionally and mentally as they were faced with telling relatives their loved ones had died.

“I was lucky to be able to spend two days on our ITU at Queen’s Hospital,” she said.

“I had the privilege to talk to a myriad of staff: veteran ITU nurses who have worked there for over 20 years; foundation doctors starting their careers during the pandemic.

“They told me about the challenges of the prolonged pandemic and the toll it had taken on them personally, as well as professionally. Many felt the weight of responsibility for being the only source of contact between patients and loved ones who couldn’t visit, and how they felt they were constantly breaking bad news,” she said.

“They also described the emotional impact of constantly breaking bad news when they were speaking to relatives.

“I was awed by their resilience and relentless dedication to their patients. I also saw how important it is to look after the incredible NHS teams, who have all given so much of themselves during this pandemic.”

Rachael Burford

Local Democracy Reporter