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Coronavirus: Give people PPE to spend last moments with dying loved ones, pleads Northern Ireland doctor

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The PUP's Dr John Kyle. Picture: BBC Newsline

The PUP's Dr John Kyle. Picture: BBC Newsline

The PUP's Dr John Kyle. Picture: BBC Newsline

PUP deputy leader Dr John Kyle has pleaded with the Department of Health to give loved ones personal protective equipment (PPE) to allow them to spend final moments with family members with Covid-19.

Dr Kyle, who recently came out of retirement to help in the fight against coronavirus, said a close family member should be trained in how to use PPE so they can spend the last few hours of a loved one's life caring for them.

"Saying goodbye to a parent or a spouse or a child, caring for them in the last few hours of their life, it is profoundly significant for any one of us," said Dr Kyle, speaking to the BBC's Newsline programme.

"In the course of our lives there are few things that are more important - so to have a blanket ban and say that nobody can be with their relative in the last few hours of their life needs to be looked at again," he said.

"Clearly there are practical challenges but the way it would work would be that one family member, a close family member, would be trained in how to put on and how to take off PPE and would spend the last few hours beside their loved one at the end of their life.

"To be able to say goodbye is really important," he said.

It comes as 10 further people were confirmed have died in Northern Ireland after contracting coronavirus on Friday.

It brings the total number of deaths across the region to 92 people.

In response, the Department of Health said that intensive care is not a safe place for members of the public.

A spokesperson said: "We need to protect very vulnerable patients and staff, we appreciate the distress this restriction causes. We will actively be promoting virtual visits through mobile devices."

It emerged on Friday that Stormont's health and finance departments are expected to place a £170m order for PPE on Tuesday.

The BBC's Nolan Show said funds have been set aside for a £60m deposit with a Chinese state firm, but leaked documents reveal concerns the goods may not be high enough quality.

Items on the order include 28.8 million facemasks, 12 million respirator masks and 28 million in both aprons and visors.

There are also concerns over the danger of being in competition with NI's main supply route via the UK government.

The funds being used to place the order were originally set aside for a failed order with Dublin but have now been allocated to a new supply route found by Northern Ireland officials in China.

At the Health Committee on Thursday, chief social worker Sean Holland said there were no concerns over the quality of current PPE stocks. There was more concern, he said, with the length of time medics were having to wear them.

The Department for Health said the order had not been confirmed.

In a statement it added: "It is entirely right for officials to scrutinise and test any such proposals, stressing the need for due diligence and emphasising that any procurement must be compatible with NHS four nations arrangements."

Meanwhile, a clinical lead in the Republic of Ireland has told a press conference on Sunday a Chinese batch of PPE was not suitable to be worn.

Northern Ireland had been expected to share in one of the most recent batches of PPE delivered in the Republic, before plans for a deal fell through.

Staff in Tallaght Hospital in Dublin were sent an email on Monday stating they were to wear surgical face masks around Covid-19 patients.

But Professor Michael Cormican, national clinical lead for Health Care Associated Infections, said the masks sent from China were "a defenceless barrier" against Covid-19, and as much use as a "paper towel".

"These are the poorest quality elasticated ear-loop facemasks," he said.

In a statement, a Tallaght Hospital spokesperson said: "The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group and Tallaght University Hospital take the safety and protection of staff very seriously and this includes ensuring goods supplied meet the necessary standards of the HSE, and as specified by the WHO.

"The supply of PPE is a national and international challenge. All hospitals... are working every day to ensure hospitals have adequate and quality approved supplies.

"Any staff member who has concerns with regard to PPE should raise it with their clinical director in the first instance."

A statement from the HSE said: "Many clinicians are understandably very concerned for their own safety and that of their patients, colleagues and family.

"Some believe that wearing gloves, masks and other protective equipment in all situations will make them and their patients safer.

"However, the key to protecting patients and staff from infection to the greatest degree possible is to follow the whole package of infection prevention precautions. The most important parts of this in all settings are hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette and regular cleaning.

"The recommendation that all staff should wear a surgical mask for all patient encounters and meetings between staff is not supported by current evidence and is not consistent with the current national guidance."

Belfast Telegraph