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Volunteers work 24/7 to ensure NHS staff on coronavirus frontline wear safe masks

PUBLISHED: 13:56 29 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:08 30 March 2020

Volunteers from the construction industry are helping to ensure frontline doctors and nurses in contact with Covid-19 patients at Ipswich and Colchester Hospital have safe masks. Picture: MICHAEL GARNHAM

Volunteers from the construction industry are helping to ensure frontline doctors and nurses in contact with Covid-19 patients at Ipswich and Colchester Hospital have safe masks. Picture: MICHAEL GARNHAM

MICHAEL GARNHAM

Suffolk construction employees who are now out of work due to coronavirus are volunteering day and night to help ensure frontline doctors and nurses in contact with Covid-19 patients have safe masks.

Volunteers from the construction industry are helping to ensure frontline doctors and nurses in contact with Covid-19 patients at Ipswich and Colchester Hospital have safe masks. Picture: MICHAEL GARNHAMVolunteers from the construction industry are helping to ensure frontline doctors and nurses in contact with Covid-19 patients at Ipswich and Colchester Hospital have safe masks. Picture: MICHAEL GARNHAM

The volunteers are working with Ipswich and Colchester hospitals to train workers on how to wear their face masks correctly while their industry is on shutdown.

So far they have trained more than 1,400 members of staff since Tuesday, including doctors, nurses, coronary care unit employees (CCU), staff on the intensive care unit (ICU) and those working in accident annd emergency.

All are working every hour possible, but are in vital need of more trained testers and more kit.

They have since had pleas from the James Paget Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital to help them – and have now sent a small team to James Paget to start testing.

The volunteers – who come from companies including GBS builders, SafeScope, DS Watson Civil Engineering, the DPL group, Anglia Demolition, AC Webb and C-Tec – are planning on organising on-site teams for all four hospitals, but really need more qualified testers to come and help.

Graeme Smith, SafeScope’s construction safety consultant, and Michael Garnham, the contract manager for GBS, have both been spearheading the volunteer work at Ipswich Hospital.

Mr Garnham said: “Normally we would test around five or six people a day but we have tested 1,400 since Tuesday.

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“We need to keep these people protected, as they are dealing with patients directly.

“Yes it is a high risk for us but it is nothing compared to what the hospital staff are doing.”

Mr Garnham, from Ipswich, is using his time off to help the hospitals in need. He said some of the stories he has heard have been awful.

“Some of the nurses I have met are young enough to be my daughter,” said Mr Garnham. “They are so brave to be dealing with these patients directly, and when everyone else is able to walk the other way the hospital staff are walking straight into it.

“They are just incredible and we can’t thank them enough.”

He says it has been a difficult week – with one volunteer even breaking down and unable to continue the work – but it is vital to keep our frontline staff protected.

One night the volunteers worked until 1.30am to ensure surgeons working on confirmed Covid-19 patients had masks.

More trained testers are required to help these hospitals cope, along with donations of any spare testing solutions or face fit test kits/parts.

If you are a qualified face fit tester and would like to volunteer by helping the NHS at this critical time, get in touch with Michael Garnham or Graeme Smith on LinkedIn.

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