Coronavirus: ‘Doctors on Covid wards sitting around with nothing to do

Newsletter 2020 World

The doctor, whose identity the News Letter has agreed to withhold, recently performed a shift at a dedicated coronavirus ward in a large hospital and said that in a four-hour timeframe there were three doctors on duty and a dozen other medical staff.

But the ward saw just three patients during this time – and none of them turned out to have Covid-19. The rest of the hospital has been “pretty much closed down” except for the Covid ward and emergency care, they said.

There was so little to do that when a patient did eventually come in there was a “flurry of excitement” and all 15 staff gathered round.

The doctor noted the “very highly-paid” status of the professionals who were manning the coronavirus ward, and said that such quiet levels of patient attendance has “been going on for weeks”.

“I get it – that the politicians here, in the middle of the whole hysteria, said: ‘We had better lock down, this is going to be serious, we are not going to be able to cope’.

“But the evidence now is absolutely clear: the lockdown is doing at least as much harm as good.

“We need to start getting people back and getting people cared for and getting the damage this has done, undone.”


Asked if people were not going to hospital because they do not want to be a ‘burden’ during the crisis, the doctor said: “There is that as well, definitely.

“I know people who are worried about blood in their stool, which is one of the things of bowel cancer. And they’re going: ‘Oh I’ll get it sorted whenever this is over, a couple of weeks won’t make any difference’.

“The hospitals are doing nothing. There would always be a pile of people in ICU because they’re post-op; you know – they go off, get chest infections, and end up in ICU for a couple of days.

“But none of that is happening ‘cause people aren’t getting their routine surgery done, not getting their hips done – anything.”

A doctor who has worked in one of Northern Ireland’s dedicated Covid-19 centres says medical staff there have almost nothing to do, whilst people with legitimate non-coronavirus symptoms are not visiting out of fear.

However the doctor did add there is an area of service which is seeing a surge in demand: psychiatric care (including distressed children with learning difficulties who are not in their usual educational environment).

The doctor’s call for a re-think on the way NHS resources are deployed was echoed today by long-serving GP Dr John Kyle.

Meanwhile this Belfast-based professor, who is an expert in virology – especially respiratory viruses like Covid-19 – has said that it is possible Northern Ireland will face a series of rolling lockdowns, interspersed with periods of freedom.

He was speaking in response to Michelle O’Neill’s claim that social distancing will be in place “for years”.

A viral expert has said it is possible that social distancing will remain in place for some time in Northern Ireland, coming and going to counteract waves of coronavirus.


The claims about the overstaffed Covid-19 care ward and the drop in regular patients were put to the Department of Health.

It responded by stating that both the Health Minister Robin Swann and Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride have “repeatedly drawn attention to the fact that the reconfiguration of hospital services to deal with Covid-19, should not prevent people from using the services”.

The statement added that both primary care and hospitals are still running services for non-coronavirus patients and that much of the day-to-day, non-Covid business of the health service continues.

The statement added: “In addition, health and social care trusts are now accessing hospitals in the independent sector to treat urgent non-Covid patients across a number of elective specialities.

“It is expected that up to 135 procedures will be carried out per week across a range of red-flag and urgent cases.

“These will include breast surgery, gynae cancer surgery, plastic surgery, urology procedures, general surgery and ophthalmology, as well as potential for a small number of local anaesthetic procedures to be undertaken.

“The Health and Social Care Board will fund this activity on the basis of compensating the independent sector on a net cost recovery, not-for-profit basis.”

At a press conference on April 20, Dr McBride issued a plea for people to continue using services, saying: “I know many individuals are concerned about leaving their home...

“But staying at home when you actually need to access care may actually result in a worse outcome for you or your child, or may result in even greater pressure and burden being placed on our health service.”