Peterborough Hospital team reflects on highs and lows two years after first COVID lockdown

Front line medics have spoken of their pride - and the highs and lows of dealing with the challenges of the COVID pandemic - two years after the first UK wide lockdown began.

By Stephen Briggs
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 12:32 pm

The first COVID patient was admitted to Peterborough City Hospital on March 16, a week before Boris Johnson told the UK that they must stay at home in a bid to stop the spread of the pandemic.

From the desperate sadness of losing friends and family, to the immense pride they felt as patients were discharged from hospital.

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Staff at Peterborough City Hospital have been sharing their memories of the pandemic

While cases are now back rising again, front line medics who were working at the hospital during the peak of the pandemic have reflected on the last two years - and remembered what the situation was like at the start of the outbreak.

Dr Kanchan Rege, Chief Medical Officer at the hospital spoke of his pride at the work done by her colleagues.

She said: “I remember when the first patients with Covid-19 started arriving in our neighbouring hospitals in March 2020 and I thought we would soon have our first patient. On the 16 March our first patient was admitted. Initially I thought we would have a short sharp burst of patients and certainly didn’t think it would be so prolonged.

“It was a very strange situation. During lockdown our Emergency Departments were so quiet, which really concerned me and our staff coped in very different ways. Some were understandably frightened, but others were keen to get involved and work in our Critical Care departments and on our Covid receiving wards.

“Many of our junior doctors were keen to get involved and two years on, some of our doctors only know what it is like to work in pandemic conditions.

“Everyone worked together to do what was needed at the time. We set up our Gold, Silver and Bronze cells, which gave us the overarching view of the organisation. MS Teams was set up, so that staff could continue to communicate wherever they worked be that at home or in one of our hospitals.

“During our Covid peaks I worked on B14, which was one of our Covid receiving wards. I wanted to make sure that I could really understand what our staff were faced with and how they were coping under such pressure. I learnt so much from them, but what really stood out for me was their dedication and care was outstanding.

“Some of our staff really stepped-up and were natural leaders and I have a huge amount of respect for them. Our senior and experienced consultants really cared about the pastoral care of our junior doctors, who had never experienced anything like this before and some of our junior doctors don’t know what it is like to work in peace time, before Covid. This situation has heightened our awareness of mental health and supporting each other.”

Charlotte Somers, a nursing associate in the Emergency Department said: “When the pandemic started and we received our first patient it was scary, as everything you saw on the news, then started happening at my place of work. For me I think the most difficult thing is how there was little knowledge about Covid and how to treat patients with it.

“When A4 became a Covid receiving ward for patients, we all pulled together as a team and faced it together. If there were times when we were struggling we always had support from each other. It could be challenging at times with staff shortages and sometimes morale was low but we were in the same boat and got through it together. I was nervous when leaving to go home in case I would pass anything to my family but I followed the rules, regularly was washing my hands and doing everything I could to protect my family.

“I felt incredibly proud when people were clapping on a Thursday night. I remember coming home after working a bank shift in ITU and as I got home everybody down the street was clapping, it made me feel appreciated for working for the NHS.”

Dannii Jarvis, Staff Nurse Critical Care said there were many proud moments for her during the pandemic, including when patients were discharged from hospital having recovered from the virus. Videos of staff cheering as they were discharged went viral online.

She said; “Our patients were so poorly and in those early months we didn’t know what we were fighting but doing everything in our power to keep them alive. It was relentless. We lost so many and even lost friends. I have lost two people I know from Covid and when that happened it was hard to cope with.

“One of the many proud moments for me were when our patients started to get better and when we can discharge them. Some of the patients had been on ventilators for over 30 days and I remember lining up along the corridor, in full PPE, and cheering and clapping as one of our patients was wheeled out of the ward, because they were recovering and could go to another ward. It was such a momentous event. We got one. That was what we all needed to keep going.”

Dr Jakki Faccenda, Consultant Respiratory Physician said: “There was a lot of fear from some of our staff, especially when you could see the impact that it was having on China and then on Italy, but I tried to maintain a sensible and calm exterior and can do attitude, to reassure and support as much as I possibly could. I very much believe that we should be leading from the front, so I made myself available so that we could talk things through and be there when needed.

“Some days were harder than others. During some of the peaks of each wave it was incredibly hard and updating relatives when they couldn’t see their family member, was also incredibly difficult. Nobody slept particularly well, but I am fortunate that I have a good network of friends and my pets and my partner and I would make the most of our walk each day to try and unwind from the stresses of the day.”

Cases are now starting to rise again in Peterborough, with an increase in the number of positive tests recorded for 17 consecutive days.

The number of patients with COVID in hospitals has also started to increase again.