West Hampstead doctor says coronavirus staff are inspired by those staying indoors
Celebrate the NHS... but also 'the single mother who lives in high rise flat and who wants to go outside; a grandmother who lives by themselves'
14 April, 2020 — By Tom Foot
Dr Joshua Michaels
A SURGEON has thanked the public for observing lockdown restrictions in testing times and described how a “change in attitudes” has boosted NHS workers on the coronavirus frontline.
Dr Joshua Michaels, who lives in West Hampstead, said there was a new “positive momentum” building among his colleagues as stories about reckless sunbathers and social-distancing flouters began to subside.
The 29-year-old, who works in the intensive care unit at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, said there was now more of a “collective unity” with the public on the wards. He has this week launched a fundraising page for the Barts Charity, which helps staff in his hospital. It has received more than £10,000 donations in just a few days.
Speaking before his 13-hour night shift, Dr Michaels told the New Journal: “At the beginning of the lockdown there was the disdain for the measures, there were a lot of stories about the difficulties people were finding in sticking to the rules – the fears people were facing every day. The daily death count is not helpful for people suffering from anxiety. It would have been very easy for people to get stuck on this wrong path.”
“But the positivity we are seeing now in the hospital has come from the change in people’s attitude. There is a sense of collective duty, you feel that when you see the empty streets. ”
Dr Michaels added: “There are a lot of people in West Hampstead, for example. There are three stations and supermarkets. But when I look outside, I can’t see single person right now. And we are all getting a boost from that at work. I can’t urge enough people to stay at home, and I can’t thank people enough for doing so.”
He added: “My resounding message is that it’s not just people on the frontline that needs celebrating. It is not just the charity work that is being done. It is also the people that are sticking to guidelines in difficult circumstances; the single mother who lives in high rise flat and who wants to go outside; a grandmother who lives by herself.
“I lost my father six months ago. My grandmother, whose son it was, also lost her husband in the space of a year. She now lives in isolation – but she is sticking to the guidance. Without the support of people observing the guidance and staying at home, the fight will falter and we will fail.”
Dr Michaels said he had decided to put himself forward for the intensive care unit at the Royal London because of a “passionate sense of what was right” and the “greater good”. He had worked as a surgeon specialising in Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) for one year after four years at medical school.
He said: “They have this fantastic system at work – it’s called a traffic light system. At roll call they ask you to raise your hand if you’re feeling motivated – that’s green. You raise your hand if feeling apprehensive – amber. And red is understood as being very scared. Then what happens is a green person teams up with an amber person. They share their fears together – you have that mental support and ‘buddy system’ to help get through the day. It is so important to have that network to bounce ideas off.
“It would be naive to say there are people with no concerns though. I have worries at times. Personally, I use the ‘Headspace’ app outside of work. I go for runs and listen to it, and before I go to sleep. It helps release the stress. There are counsellors and guidance co-ordinators.”
Dr Michaels said he was aware of shortages of protective equipment but his experience was there was enough at his hospital.
He said he had set up the fund particularly to help patients access technology needed to talk to relatives, adding: “We are providing patients with iPads and tablets so they don’t just see a masked face all the time and can communicate with their relatives. If i was a patient, and I spent every day seeing masked, hooded figures – I would find it very worrying. We want to give patients a face to look at.”
Dr Michaels said funds were needed to support staff in the rest of the hospital, where there are still “cancer patients, emergency surgery, motorcycle accidents, car accidents, stabbings”, adding: “Horrendous things are still going on that need to be responded to.”
Speaking on the pressures facing the NHS, he said: “You are always going to have waiting lists, they are impossible to remove. The supply and demand is never going to be in favour of patients. It takes a long time to train doctors, but the answer is always going to be ‘yes’ to more money in NHS.”
Dr Michaels is calling for donations “however large or small to help provide our hospital, staff and patients the vital equipment and support we need”. It has raised almost £10,000 in just a few days.