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Relatives pay tribute to hospital staff who died from coronavirus

UCLH dedicates NHS anniversary event to seven staff it has lost during pandemic

10 July, 2020 — By Tom Foot

Felicity Sarah Siyachitem, who had been a switch­board operator at the hospital since 2017, and Luis Carlos Villada, who worked as a porter

HEARTBREAKING tributes to hospital workers who died from the coronavirus have been paid by their grieving relatives on the 72nd anniversary of the NHS.

University College London Hospitals dedicated its anniversary event to seven staff who died during the Covid-19 peak.

The husband of Lola Aladejana – who worked as a receptionist on the main desk at the hospital in Euston Road – described his wife as “a mentor and an inspirational speaker to teenagers”.

Ayo Aladejana said: “Lola was a wonderful wife, a mother and my friend. She had so much love for her family and for her community. She was a mentor and inspirational speaker to teenagers.

Virus victim Lola Aladejana was a receptionist on the main desk at the hospital in Euston Road

“The 17 years of our marriage were heaven on earth. We enjoyed it to the fullest. We had great plans to set up a charity to help those from poorer backgrounds this year.

At the end of April, staff at the hospital had attended a protest vigil outside the hospital in Euston Road over the number of frontline workers who were falling ill and dying.

The hospital said that all staff had proper access to personal protective equipment, known as PPE.

The provision of protective kit, particularly at the start of the outbreak, remains a source of national debate.

Jennie Sablayan was a specialist haematology nurse who trained in the Philippines before joining UCLH in 2002.

Her husband, Joel Sablayan, said: “There are no words to describe the pain of losing my wife and the mother of our two young girls, but I know that she made an impact on people’s lives and we are forever proud of her dedication to her profession.”

There were also tributes to Felicity Sarah Siyachi­tema, who had worked in clinical support as a switch­board operator since 2017.

Brian Manley, operational switchboard manager at the hospital, said: “From her interview day to her last shift this April, that little smile she wore was always present, nothing too tough or difficult to handle.

Jennie Sablayan, pictured with her family, was a haematology nurse who joined UCLH in 2002

UCLH has treated hundreds of patients for Covid-19 and a glimpse of the high-pressure conditions for NHS life-savers was revealed when a BBC team was allowed to film inside a critical care ward.

Since the pandemic hit the UK, 175 people have passed away at the hospital. There have been no fatalities in recent weeks as the numbers fell following lockdown.

Luis Carlos Villada was employed by the hospital’s contractor, Interserve, and had worked as a porter at UCLH for 20 years. He died from Covid-19 as the numbers rose in April.

Pilar, his wife, said: “Luis Carlos was 63 years old. He was a father of four children. He was always smiling and happy, a real gentleman with a kind heart that would provide help to anyone. He was very much loved by his family and friends. We miss him every day. He will always be in our hearts.”

The tributes paid this week serve as a reminder of the human tragedy of a virus that has disproportionately affected people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. The Government has ordered an investigation into the causes of this and, locally, Camden Council is probing the figures.

UCLH paid tribute to all its staff and volunteers on Sunday as part of the anniversary event.

In a message to staff and volunteers at the hospital, UCLH chairwoman Julia Neuberger said: “The NHS is truly a remarkable institution and is quite rightly the envy of the world. It is you as staff that make it something special and you have really shown how wonderful you are during these trying times of Covid-19.”

Poetic tribute to the NHS’s helping hands

Michael Rosen

STAFF at the Whittington Hospital marked the NHS’s 72nd birthday with a recital of author Michael Rosen’s poem These are the Hands.

Mr Rosen, who wrote for the NHS on its 60th birthday, was discharged from the Highgate hospital following 47 days in the intensive care unit with Covid-19.

The Whittington also saw hundreds of patients, with 111 deaths.

He is now recovering from Covid-19 at his home in Muswell Hill.

The poem, which was read out by staff in an online film, goes:

These are the hands
That touch us first
Feel your head
Find the pulse
And make your bed.
These are the hands
That tap your back
Test the skin
Hold your arm
Wheel the bin
Change the bulb
Fix the drip
Pour the jug
Replace your hip.
These are the hands
That fill the bath
Mop the floor
Flick the switch
Soothe the sore
Burn the swabs
Give us a jab
Throw out sharps
Design the lab.
And these are the hands
That stop the leaks
Empty the pan
Wipe the pipes
Carry the can
Clamp the veins
Make the cast
Log the dose
And touch us last.

The hospital’s front entrance in Magdala Avenue was bathed in blue on Sunday as part of the birthday celebrations.

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