Covid inquiry: Patient movements made 'mockery of infection control'

The UK Covid-19 Inquiry, which is being held in Edinburgh, heard from Jane Morrison who's wife died in hospital during the pandemic.

Patient movements made ‘mockery of infection control’ during Covid pandemic, inquiry hears iStock

Patients being able to meet friends and family outside hospital without protective measures made a “mockery of infection control”, an inquiry has heard.

Scottish Covid Bereaved lead member Jane Morrison told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry in Edinburgh that while her wife Jacky was ill with the virus in hospital, she saw other patients leaving the building to meet with friends and families in groups with no personal protective equipment or social distancing.

Jacky died in Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with Covid-19 in October 2020 aged 49, having contracted the virus while a patient there.

Responding to questions from Jamie Dawson KC, lead counsel to the current module of the inquiry, Ms Morrison said the movement of patients made a “mockery of infection control” and was like “pulling down a portcullis to stop a swarm of bees”.

She said: “To us, one of the biggest gaps when Covid started, certainly in the hospital that Jacky was in, they set up a system – you could only have one visitor for the duration of that patient’s stay. This was before she got Covid and they had to make an appointment, so they didn’t have too many people on the ward at once, and where possible, face masks, gloves and [aprons were worn].

“But every time I went to visit Jacky, outside of the hospital, you had patients who had come outside and they were meeting friends and families in the car parks with no masks, no social distancing and in groups of up to half a dozen.

“Then I saw it with my own eyes and I finished and walked back into the hospital and they wouldn’t even use the hand gel.

“So you know it makes a mockery of much of the infection control because it’s like pulling down a portcullis to stop a swarm of bees.”

She went on to say this took place throughout the pandemic.

She added: “We all want the same thing, which is we all want answers to make sure that this does not happen again.

“It will only work if everyone speaking to the inquiry, particularly the politicians and the decision makers are completely candid, and they don’t have selective amnesia, which seem to have been apparent in some of the previous issues.

“We need the truth and we need people to be honest, and if they made a mistake be big enough to admit you made a mistake.”

The inquiry then heard from Rozanne Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish Trade Unions Congress.

She said public health data on Covid-19 rates demonstrates “a clear link between worker occupation groupings and the likelihood to contract and, indeed, have fatal consequences” with the virus, and she argued long Covid should be treated as an “industrial injury”.

She said: “We need to start looking at Covid as an industrial injury and see it through that lens.

“I think that a lesson that we need to learn for the future is, for the people who suffered long-term consequences such as death or long Covid and their families – this should be treated as an industrial injury in the same way as people who have asbestos-related injuries or long-term health conditions are treated.”

NHS Tayside has been approached for comment.

The inquiry, before Baroness Heather Hallett, continues.

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