Family of UK’s first surgeon coronavirus victim, Adil El-Tayar, calls on UK to protect health workers

Adil El-Tayar worked at the capital’s St. Mary’s and St. George’s hospitals during his career and passed away on March 25 at a hospital in the west of the city from coronavirus. (Supplied/NHS)
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Updated 01 April 2020

Family of UK’s first surgeon coronavirus victim, Adil El-Tayar, calls on UK to protect health workers

  • Family of Adil El-Tayar ask why NHS is not testing doctors on a regular basis
  • UK government under fire for not providing enough protective equipment for health workers

LONDON: The family of a Sudanese surgeon who died from coronavirus has called for the British government to do more to protect hospital staff.
Adil El-Tayar, an organ transplant consultant in London, who had also worked in Sudan and Saudi Arabia, was the first National Health Service (NHS) surgeon to die in the UK as a result of COVID-19. The 63-year-old passed away last Wednesday.
“Our view is that the NHS needs to do much more to protect the frontline workers (and) it’s unacceptable that in 2020 in the UK, there is even a question about whether the frontline workers are well protected and they should have been testing frontline staff from the very beginning,” Othman El-Tayar told Arab News.
He questioned why the NHS, who have not been touch with the family since El-Tayar's passing, is not testing their doctors on a regular basis, let alone testing potential COVID-19 patients.
“They tell us just to stay at home for a week and they tell you not to come to hospital unless you become short of breath, at which point it’s too late. So don’t come to the hospital unless you’re coming to die. I mean, it’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said.
El-Tayar, who is also a doctor and has been in self-isolation after developing symptoms, said his father came home from work feeling unwell and began to develop a fever the following day, which he treated with paracetamol.
“Then the temperature progressed, he developed a loss of appetite, had generalized body pain, and that persisted for a few days, but around the fourth day we were becoming concerned because his symptoms weren’t improving,” he said.
After a couple of days, they contacted the non-emergency health number, as per the NHS’ instructions, to get advice and El-Tayar said they were told he should stay at home and wait.
“The next day we called an ambulance because he was still short of breath and still feverish and we took him to the hospital and he was taken to the ICU (intensive care unit),” he added.
He also said that his father was put on a ventilator, but his condition quickly declined and worsened every day and within three to four days he had passed away.
Othman said that his “father helped so many people throughout his life, not just through medicine, just as a person as well.” 
He said he hoped his father’s legacy will live on.
“People need to be aware that this isn’t just a virus and just numbers on the television screen, this is now very real.”
The UK government came under renewed pressure Tuesday over the shortage of protective equipment for health workers and the lack of coronavirus testing available for doctors and nurses.
Dr. Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, apologized for the delay in getting personal protective equipment to NHS staff.
El-Tayar was volunteering on the frontlines against the outbreak in a hospital in central England. 
His cousin, the British-Sudanese broadcast journalist Zeinab Badawi, paid tribute to the surgeon.
“He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis,” she said on the BBC.
Another cousin, Dr. Hisham Al-Khader, the former head of the Sudanese Doctors’ Syndicate in the UK, said El-Tayar “was a pivotal person in our family, and he is highly respected by many people in his country, the Gulf (region) and Saudi Arabia, where he spent a good deal of time.”
Thousands of Sudanese doctors deployed throughout Britain are working on the frontlines of the war against the coronavirus pandemic.
“We doctors are currently already open to the disease, and we need a little more protection than what is offered,” Al-Khader told media.
His colleague, Dr. Nabil Mahmoud Ahmed, the union’s secretary and psychiatrist, said the union and other medical associations and organizations have continued to notice a significant shortage of protective equipment for doctors.
The British ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, also praised El-Tayar for his efforts in a tweet and expressed sadness over his demise.

On Monday, health workers paid tribute to another Sudanese-born health worker who died from coronavirus in the UK.
Amged El-Hawrani, 55, an ear, nose and throat consultant, died in Leicester on Saturday.
Meanwhile, an NHS surgeon, who asked not to be named, reiterated to Arab News that the UK government, and the health services need to do more to protect frontline doctors and nurses and said she was disappointed with the British media’s coverage of the death of the two Sudanese doctors, who were the first two practitioners to die in the line of duty, and wondered why such both devastating fatalities were not covered properly. 
“Is it because of the ethnicity of the doctors, or because frontline employees do not matter and are expected to die?”


Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

Updated 29 May 2020

Philippines cracks down on clandestine COVID-19 clinics

  • Intelligence, immigration officials investigating illegal facilities that catered mostly to foreigners

MANILA: The Philippines has intensified its crackdown on uncertified medical facilities offering treatment to people, particularly foreigners, with COVID-19 symptoms.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to help the Philippine National Police (PNP) track down foreign nationals behind the illegal clinics.
“It seems that clandestine medical clinics catering mostly to foreign nationals have sprouted and have been operating without proper authority,” Guevarra told reporters.
He said the facilities could have compromised the health of those who had undergone treatment.
“I’ll therefore ask the NBI and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them, and if warranted, to file the appropriate charges against them,” he added.
Guevarra issued the order following a raid on Tuesday on an illegal clinic catering to Chinese patients in Makati City. Arrested in the operation were Chinese nationals Dr. David Lai, 49, and Liao Bruce, 41.
The clinic was reportedly operating without a permit, while the arrested did not have a license to practice medicine in the country.
Seized from the site were swab sticks, vials, syringes and boxes of medicine with Chinese labels — believed to be unregistered with the Food and Drug Administration.
Last week, law enforcers also swooped on a makeshift hospital for Chinese patients in the Fontana Leisure Park in Clark, Pampanga province.
The raid came after police received information that a COVID-19 patient was “undergoing medical attention” in a Fontana villa.
Arrested during the raid were Chinese nationals Liu Wei, who reportedly supervised the facility, and Hu Shiling, allegedly a pharmacist. Both were released on the same day without charge.
Immigration officials on Thursday said the duo had been placed on their watch list to prevent them from leaving the country while an investigation is underway.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said intelligence operatives will trace four of the patients, and are looking into the case of the Chinese nationals arrested in Makati.
“I’ve instructed our intelligence division to investigate if these alleged Chinese doctors are legally staying in the country,” he said.
“Should we find they violated our immigration laws, they’ll be charged with deportation cases before our law and investigation division,” he added.
“Even if no criminal charges were filed against them, they can be charged for immigration law violations if we can establish that they violated the conditions of their stay in the country.”
If criminal charges are filed, however, the BI will only deport them after their cases have been resolved or they have served their sentences, if convicted.
Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros called for the “immediate deportation and blacklisting” of the Chinese nationals because of their “blatant disregard of our laws.”
She added that while the Philippines is working hard to protect its people from the virus, “these criminals freely roam and pose a danger to public health.”