‘Devoted’ father-of-seven NHS worker from Hackney ‘died alone of coronavirus after treating infected patient’
PUBLISHED: 16:13 31 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:54 01 April 2020
An NHS nurse who “always went beyond the call of duty” died at home from coronavirus he caught while treating a patient without any protective equipment, a friend have revealed.
Father-of-seven Thomas Harvey, 57, was never taken to hospital for treatment, despite paramedics attending his home in Upper Clapton when he was struggling to breathe.
Instead Thomas, who devoted more than 20 years of his life to the NHS, collapsed and died in his bathroom on Sunday while he was self-isolating.
His friend and former colleague, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Gazette how his wife had to call police to smash down the door, but they were unable to save him despite carrying out CPR.
Thomas was not tested for coronavirus, but his family are now waiting to find out through a post-mortem whether he had the illness.
“He had all the symptoms,” said his friend, who has launched a crowdfunder which already has £3,000 donations to support his grieving family.
“He had pains in his body, he had a persistent cough, and sore throat for two weeks.
“His wife called the ambulance a few times and they didn’t take him. They did observations of his pulse and blood sugar and they said everything was ok.
“The last time she called they told her to call 111. She told them he was really struggling to breathe and that he hadn’t eaten for two weeks, and they said just follow the instructions on their website, and didn’t send an ambulance.”
Thomas’ friend has contacted his former colleagues at Goodmayes Hospital, Ilford, and understands he treated a coronavirus patient without any personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The patient was removed from the ward and sent somewhere else in isolation, and when it came back positive that they had coronavirus, Thomas stopped working and went into isolation on March 14th, before he had symptoms,” she said. “He started getting symptoms not long after.
“I’ve spoken to each and every one of his colleagues and everyone is saying that he was not supplied with protective clothing. They still aren’t giving any of them protective clothing even now. They don’t even have it to share between them.
She continued: “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.
“Now we are losing our lives, and the government can sit there and say many more people will lose their lives before we get it under control - but it’s unnecessary because we knew this was going to happen.” The government has come under fire from doctors and frontline staff, who have complained about the lack of PPE they are being given, raising the risk of their exposure to the disease.
Thomas’ friend said there “are no words” for the effect his death has had on his wife and family.
“His wife needs as much help as possible because that’s what she deserves,” she said.
“She can’t communicate, she’s still in shock. She’s not eating, she’s not sleeping.
“He died in their family house, and that will be a constant reminder.
“Already she’s feeling guilty, saying she should have made sure the ambulance took him, but she has nothing to feel guilty about.”
Tom was “very warm and friendly, and had a caring heart”.
“If he was on a ward, he would ask every single one of his 50 patients if they were ok and how their night was,” she said.
“He would change them and wash their hair and make sure they had oral hygiene - the things people don’t always think about. He would sit with them on the ward and talk to them, about the weather and politics and football. He wasn’t just about coming and doing the basics. He went beyond the call of duty, and gave more than what was expected of him.”
To donate to the crowdfunder see gofundme.com/f/funds-to-help-the-family-of-thomas-harvey.
A spokesperson for North East London NHS Foundation Trust insisted the hospital has been following national PPE guidance.
“At the time Thomas went off sick and self-isolated there were no symptomatic patients on the ward,” they said.
Chief executive Prof Oliver Shanley OBE said Thomas’ death is a “huge loss”.
“It is with deep regret that we share with you that we have sadly lost a dear and valued colleague who had Covid-19,” he added.
“Thomas was a longstanding dedicated member of our intermediate care team. 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 spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said they “do not comment on individual cases”.
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