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Seeing Red: Asking questions during a crisis

Seeing Red is my regular column in The Isle of Thanet News. This opinion piece was first published on April 13 2020.

Lockdown is challenging everyone. Our staff in the NHS, councils, care homes, shops, takeaways and those who are able to ‘homework’ are all working so hard to keep us safe. We are all uniquely together in a state of coping.

This is a form of limbo, as we neither know when or how the Coronavirus emergency ends. It is both a challenge for us as a society but also on a personal level.

I am trying to concentrate on my personal ‘zone of control’, those areas of my life which I have actual control over. Areas might be which cupboard I clean out, what I cook to eat or how I get some exercise to stay fit and healthy during lockdown. These things I can choose.

I’m also endeavouring to continue to act as an elected politician, although KCC have not yet made the switch to virtual meetings. I’m hopeful this will happen soon so we can resume responsibilities of scrutiny and decision making for the residents and businesses of this county .

People are struggling to manage during this crisis, of this I am acutely aware. I’m so impressed by the efforts many are making to ensure all those in our community receive what they need, at this time of crisis. The collective response is as heartwarming as it is incredible, whether it be small scale manufacture or community assistance; from homemade visors to distribution of food. If you are part of a group doing something similar please don’t hesitate to contact me (and other KCC councillors) for financial help via our members grant.

My focus is also on the NHS. We have never needed our NHS more, nor wanted to support our NHS workers more. So like many, every Thursday night at 8pm I’m clapping as hard as I can to show my support. There is a fantastic and uplifting community noise on Royal Road and Spencer Square in Ramsgate, much improved this week with the addition of the WW2 sirens and boat horns from Ramsgate Harbour.

On 30th March after being contacted by staff at QEQM I wrote to Susan Acott, Chief Executive of East Kent Hospitals seeking facts as to “When will our local staff get an adequate amount of the correct personal protective equipment (PPE)?” To date I’ve had no response. I don’t know about you, but I find this shocking.

We are in the middle of the worst health crisis any of us have ever witnessed. PPE remains in short supply. Whatever side of the political divide your are on, it’s important that all our politicians are accurate. Our Secretary of State, Matt Hancock got it badly wrong this week, by not recognising the ‘burn rate’ of PPE and received wisdom to discard and refresh PPE between patients to prevent infection. We need more more PPE in our community. We also wait to see how testing is ramped up.

Additionally, I’ve been ‘chasing’ the detail on Thanet’s relationship to the new Nightingale hospital at Excel in London’s Royal Docks. Apparently for every eight patients we send to London we’ll also need to provide a nurse and an assistant. I want to know what this actually means. Who will make the transfers? Can we can cope with staff switching from Thanet to The Nightingale at Excel? Also, will our NHS staff will be looked after and properly compensated?

Last but not least I’m following up concerns raised by residents about our local GP surgeries and care homes. Newington Road Surgery was briefly closed for a deep clean, but what happens if these vital services are hit by staff shortages or other reasons for suspension? How safe are our friends and relatives in care and are news reports of re-prioritisation of the elderly really true?

We are enduring a crisis that is hitting us on social, economical and moral fronts. However, someone has to ask these questions.