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British doctor's initiative to fight the novel coronavirus

By Wang Mingjie and Han Baoyi in London | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-29 06:41
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Editor's note: This news column showcases stories from around the world that bring a touch of positivity to the fight against the deadly coronavirus.

It was an overwhelming number of messages from fellow doctors voicing alarm over shortages of personal protective equipment, or PPE, in the hospitals that led a London-based general practitioner to embark on initiatives to help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sharon Raymond, an out-of-hours general practitioner, founded a voluntary scheme-Covid Crisis Rescue, also known as CCR-through crowdfunding, with the aim of assisting doctors and patients to combat the novel coronavirus.

Raymond, who is a lead for integrated urgent care in London and has been active in National Health Service-related matters, said: "The real stimulus to set this up is because I was getting private messages from colleagues saying that 'we do not have PPE… we are worried about either spreading the virus or getting the virus from the patients', that's what really pushed me to do something."

Co-founded with a lawyer friend Alex Adams on March 21, CCR began delivering a wide range of PPE-including masks, gloves, gowns, and visors-to frontline workers at the beginning of the pandemic in the UK. To date, they have distributed 50,000 items of PPE benefiting not just hospitals but also hospices, and homeless shelters.

Then, Raymond realized that one condition occurring due to the unusual nature of the novel coronavirus is that COVID-19 patients can be at high risk of silent hypoxia. The oxygen levels of patients with this condition can drop to a potentially dangerous level without themselves or others noticing.

"If someone has silent hypoxia and also has a low oxygen level, they can't tell and we can't tell. At any moment, they could crash and need emergency treatment, so it gave us an idea of who needs to get to the hospital," Raymond explained. "I realized very earlier on that an oxygen saturation monitor would be a very crucial tool, so that became a key priority for the Covid Crisis Rescue foundation."

In collaboration with the Royal Free Hospital and the Bike Shed company, Raymond launched the Urgent Oximeter Response Service. The team delivers oxygen saturation probes to patients within 90 minutes of a call in order to aid self-assessment and remote assessment of COVID-19 symptoms, thereby mitigating the impact on the national emergency services.

Raymond is working with numerous partners across the country in the hope of making the service nationwide.

While serving her own patients as a general practitioner through remote consultations, she was told that some of her patients who needed to be seen by doctors in hospitals did not have private transport to get to these appointments, and they were not necessarily unwell enough for an ambulance to transport them. Raymond came up with the idea of setting up the "Covid Cab Service".

"We saw at the height of the pandemic that we were really struggling to get ambulances to take patients in a timely manner because there were just so many calls," she said, "An 18-minute emergency ambulance was taking something like two hours or longer.

"So in a fully protected setting, with drivers given masks and gloves and passengers separated by a screen in the vehicle, the patients could travel safely for a face-to-face assessment by a doctor."

Main challenge

When asked what motivates her to keep going, Raymond said: "If I know that one patient or one professional has been protected or their lives saved through any of these initiatives, it's enough for me."

She said the main challenge so far is the lack of sleep she has had to get by on over the past few months.

Though the COVID-19 infection rate has fallen sharply from its peaks and most of the lockdown restrictions have ended, Raymond is not easing up. She hopes to help bring about increases in testing for the coronavirus and aid those who have been hurt economically and psychologically.

She is looking to launch a telephone-based, peer-support service called In Your Shoes for doctors at risk of burnout as a result of the pandemic.

(Video by Brian Chang)

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