Covid respiratory protective equipment call

Doctors in Unite to stage International Workers Memorial Day rally calling for special protective equipment for healthcare staff

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The call for all health and social care workers (HSCWs) to be issued with special equipment – respiratory protective equipment (RPE) – as the Covid crisis continues will be highlighted tomorrow (Thursday 28 April) at an event organised by Doctors in Unite (DiU) at the National Covid Memorial Wall in London.

The event will take place from 1.30pm until 2.30pm.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid is being urged to ensure that RPE is provided for all the healthcare workforce, which is not currently the case, despite more than 2,000 health and social care workers having died as a result of the pandemic, according to ONS data.

In a message of solidarity to the event, Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Many workers paid the price for the pandemic with their lives and with their health because they were exposed to this virus at work. Politicians clapped their pots and pans for doctors, nurses and social care workers, but soon forgot the sacrifice.  There was no reward – just insulting pay cuts – and still we must fight for safety at work.

“The best way to remember those that have perished is to build something in their name, a trade union movement worthy of the name. Because that will allow us to protect the living,” she added. “Unite will always do more that demand just laws – we will lead the fight for ourselves, for safety, beginning at the workplace.”

Ahead of the event, Doctors in Unite chair Dr Jackie Applebee noted, “The tragic loss of so many HSCWs is compounded by the fact that many of these deaths were unnecessary. We will never know exactly how many, but from the start of the pandemic HSCWs have not been properly protected, and this continues to this day. It is self-evident that airborne infections need special protective equipment.”

Dr Applebee went on to highlight how the pandemic is far from over.

“Ukraine may have knocked the deaths from Covid off the front pages, but during April a couple of hundred people were dying on average every day having had a positive test in the previous 28 days – that is a staggering figure more than two years into this pandemic and makes it imperative that Sajid Javid ensures that all those in health and social care have access to the enhanced RPE,” she said.

Meanwhile, Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe added, “This situation is intolerable. Not surprisingly tens of thousands of HSCWs continue to be infected, many are off sick with Covid and an estimated 150,000 others have developed Long Covid.

“We will not rest until our colleagues are given the respect they deserve, and the protections they need to safely carry out their jobs.”

By Shaun Noble

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