The family of a grandfather and frontline NHS worker who died after contracting the novel coronavirus say they feel "let down" after claiming he treated patients without the right protective equipment.
Thomas Harvey, 57, from Hackney, East London, passed away on Sunday after developing symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, and body aches.
The health care support worker, who worked at Goodmayes Hospital in Ilford, was signed off from work on March 11 but was never tested for COVID-19. A former colleague has claimed he contracted it after treating a patient who was infected with the disease.
The hospital confirmed that Harvey died after contracting COVID-19, but said there were "no symptomatic patients on the ward."
However, his family have said they feel "let down", with his daughter Tamira telling the BBC: "If he had just had the right equipment we wouldn't be in this predicament and it wouldn't have escalated in the way it did."
"It's so sad. I feel like he was let down in so many ways," she said. "It's an absolute tragedy, and he didn't deserve to lose his life the way he did."
Harvey, who leaves behind his wife of 22 years, seven children and three grandchildren, was described by his friend and former colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous, as a “devoted member of the NHS for over 20 years and loved his job to the fullest.”
“Thomas went beyond his call of duty to make sure that every patient was comfortable,” she told BuzzFeed News. “When he came on the ward in the morning, he would go and greet every patient and ask them how their night was — nothing was too small or too big for him to do to make a patient feel comfortable.
“Family and friends who came to visit their loved ones always recognised that Thomas was the one who looked after their family. Patients were always well groomed and well taken care of. He had a spirit of excellence."
“Thomas was a father, husband, brother, colleague and friend. He was always there to listen to everyone’s problems and always help with solutions — he was passionate about everything he did. The NHS have lost a valid member. He will leave a massive hole in all our hearts.”
She has also claimed that Harvey treated a coronavirus patient without personal protective equipment (PPE), adding: "They asked us to fight a war but they have not provided us with anything to fight this war.
“The army is provided with guns and bullets if they are going to fight. This is a war against an invisible enemy, and we do not have anything to fight this war with."
When asked about the lack of PPE for NHS staff, the Department of Health told BuzzFeed News: "We are working around the clock to give the NHS and the wider social care sector the equipment and support they need to tackle this outbreak.
"In the past two weeks the NHS Supply Chain have delivered 170 million pieces of PPE equipment, and another 2.9 million face masks were delivered on Tuesday.
"Whilst we are confident that enough supply is now reaching the front line, we appreciate there were limited distribution problems to begin with while we dealt with new demand caused by this emerging epidemic.
"The full weight of the government is behind this effort and we continue to work closely with the industry, social care providers, the NHS, NHS Supply Chain and the army so all of our NHS staff have the protection they deserve."
Professor Oliver Shanley OBE, the chief executive of North East London NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement:
“It is with deep regret that we share with you that we have sadly lost a dear and valued colleague who had COVID-19.
"Thomas Harvey, a healthcare assistant, sadly passed away at home on Sunday 29 March. Thomas was a longstanding dedicated member of our intermediate care team. This is a huge loss to both NELFT and the wider NHS.
"I would like to offer my sincere condolences to Thomas’s family, friends and work colleagues. We are ensuring they are supported through this difficult time and I would like to thank colleagues for the professionalism and compassion they have shown.”
A total of 2,352 people in the UK have died after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the latest figures published by NHS England.
A GoFundMe page has been set up by Harvey's former colleague to help his family with funeral costs, which you can donate to here.
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