Coronavirus: ICU nurse treating Peterborough Covid-19 patients ‘overwhelmed’ by standard of care as she thanks public for support

An ICU nurse treating coronavirus patients at Peterborough City Hospital has described being “overwhelmed” by the standard of care being given by her team during the current pandemic.
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Mala Pillay had been a theatre nurse for more than 20 years before putting herself forward in March to help look after patients diagnosed with the virus which has so far claimed more than 65 lives at the hospital.

The 45-year-old said she was “grateful” for the support she has received in being re-trained as an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) nurse, while she praised the “care and compassion” shown by her colleagues who are putting themselves on the frontline against Covid-19.

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Mala, who finished a 12 hour shift on Monday, also thanked the hospital for making sure she has always has enough PPE (personal protective equipment) to do the job, despite shortages nationally, and she said she was amazed by the public’s support for the NHS, including the weekly 10 minute clap and refreshments which have been delivered to staff.

Mala in the ICU at Peterborough City HospitalMala in the ICU at Peterborough City Hospital
Mala in the ICU at Peterborough City Hospital

The South African national, who moved to Peterborough City Hospital from Hinchingbrooke Hospital last year, said: “It is a stressful environment, but we’re all working in unity.  

“The help and support from the ICU nurses has been phenomenal. They trained me quickly to be able to look after Covid-19 patients. 

“I’m so grateful to Peterborough City Hospital. From the word go we’ve had PPE. I was a bit worried in the beginning when I saw BBC News and people were working without PPE. But we’ve had PPE from the start.

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“I’m so grateful as well to the schools and businesses for making visors for us.”

Mala at Peterborough City HospitalMala at Peterborough City Hospital
Mala at Peterborough City Hospital

Covid-19 has claimed the lives of frontline health workers across the country, but Mala, who lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in St Ives, said it was never in doubt that she would put herself forward to work in the ICU.

“It’s very hard for me to say ‘no’. I always put myself out there. My husband and kids are worried for me, but they’ve been my rock and know how much I like my job,” said Mala, who has been working in the NHS for 16 years,.

“I was part of the theatre team, then in March they were stopping all elective surgeries and only doing them for emergencies and cancer patients. The rest of the team were to be re-deployed.

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“I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t know ICU but told myself I wanted to learn the skill. I’m very thankful I did that.

“It’s been great all the support from the nurses at ICU. We’ve got to help each other to get through it.

“The care and compassion the nurses give is overwhelming. They love their jobs and there is so much compassion.”

Patients are split up into those who have been diagnosed, while others with symptoms are kept in side rooms so there is no cross-infection while they wait for their results.

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The nurses on shift have been helping to stop the patients get pressure sores, while also brushing their teeth and giving them baths.

And they’ve also provided much-needed companionship for the people in the ICU who are unable to receive visitors.

Mala added: “I cried on my first day there. It’s emotional. They come to hospital and some will not go home. The worst part is families can’t visit. Nurses hold the patients’ hands but it’s not the same. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my career.

“It’s the first time in my nursing career to see a pandemic like this. But to see them make a recovery is so emotional as well, that we can fight this if we do the right thing, like the public staying at home, washing your hands.

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“The public is so loving. It’s amazing this country - the togetherness, the giving. It’s touched me, making sure we are okay. They don’t have to do this, but it shows their kindness and how much they appreciate their health services.”