Last week I visited 2 departments at a major hospital in our region. The first makes replacements for parts of the head and neck that have been destroyed by either injury or tumour, such as ears, mouths, eyes, noses.
The consultant told me that there are patients who urgently need surgery to prevent the losses I have described but cannot get that surgery because the ICU wards are full of Covid patients. One woman has lost both eyes rather than one because of the delay, and her tumour may have spread to the brain as a result. One member of the department already redeployed to a full Covid ward reported that 100% of the patients on that particular ward had not been vaccinated.
In the next department, which specialises in repairing the head and body after a variety of traumas, I learned that the surgeons are only operating on cancer patients, and agonise every day over who to put on the list.
The following day, a television news programme interviewed a 40 year old woman who has been waiting for 2 years for a liver and pancreas transplant. In speaking of people who are not being vaccinated, the last thing she said was: “Their life choices are affecting whether I get to continue my life”.
I too take issue therefore with the recent claim in your letters pages that “not taking a medicine yourself as such, has literally no effect on others.” In this case, the effect is on patients urgently needing treatment as well as on expert, but already exhausted and distraught hospital staff of the kind that I met recently.
With up to 20% staff absence in parts of the NHS and staff leaving in droves, we cannot afford for our ICUs to be full of people who might not have needed to be there, while those that do cannot get potentially life-saving treatment. Staff absence due to Covid is also badly affecting schools and businesses.
The state of the NHS is one of a number of national emergencies facing this country. At least where the NHS is concerned, our individual action can make a difference. For me, even as someone who has not been a huge fan of vaccinations in the past, that definitely means getting vaccinated against Covid.