Peterborough critical care doctor's heartbreak as she holds hand of COVID patient to ensure he didn't die alone

A doctor working in Peterborough City Hospital's critical care unit has spoken of her heartbreak as she held the hand of a COVID patient to ensure he did not die alone.

Thursday, 11th February 2021, 5:00 am

Dr Katherine Mortimore, Consultant in Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, said the last 12 months had been incredibly difficult for the entire duration of the pandemic for the entire team - and for COVID patients who were unable to have visitors on the ward.

Dr Mortimore said: "There has been a constant COVID patient presence on Critical Care since March and nursing staff can sometimes spend up to 13 hours on a shift in full PPE which in

itself is gruelling.

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Dr Katherine Mortimore

"We are very lucky that we have an incredible team on Critical Care and we work together to provide the best care we can for our patients.

"The restrictions on visiting are particularly hard for patients that are in intensive care. Relatives aren’t able to visit and that means that all communication with families has to be via telephone, or video calls when this is possible.

"End-of-life discussions are always difficult for everyone and doing this via telephone with the family can make it even harder.

"Any patient that dies as a result of COVID is extremely hard for everyone concerned.

"On one of my recent night shifts I held the hand of one of my patients as he died from COVID pneumonia.

"His nurse and I spoke to the family via telephone and ensured his last moments were not alone, but the emotional toll on us is high on us too."

Since the start of the pandemic, a spokesman for the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust said there had been 417 COVID related deaths at Peterborough City Hospital (up to February 8).

Despite the COVID rate being so high in Peterborough, there have been a number of reports of people breaching lockdown rules - something Dr Mortimore said was'hard to see.'

She said: "It is hard seeing so many people out -and -about when the number of cases in hospital are still so high.

"We are overwhelmed with patients and are constantly trying to create more capacity to cope with the increasing numbers of patients."

Dr Mortimore's role has changed during the pandemic, and she has had to spend time away from her family as a result.

She said; "During the first phase of the initial pandemic peak, I moved from my usual role to work full-time in our Critical Care department and I have just moved back to full-time

there again to help cover the surge rota.

"Our rota has to be very flexible to cope with the varying numbers of patients in Critical Care and we have covered many extra shifts to cope with the workload."

She added; "Some weeks I feel like I hardly see my children, but I am very lucky that my husband is at home with them.

"My family, phone-calls with friends, exercise, wine and chocolate has helped me through the past year.

"Please help us by staying home and staying safe. Follow the government’s guidelines to protect yourselves, your family and friends and the NHS."