A Covid-hit hospital trust has created a lasting tribute to colleagues lost during the pandemic by unveiling a memorial stone garden.
Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Walsall Manor Hospital, unveiled a permanent area outside the A&E entrance on Wednesday to remember staff who died during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The trust said the garden would honour all those lost during the pandemic, not just those who died after contracting Covid-19.
In a carefully socially-distanced ceremony, staff including senior trust executives and frontline clinicians, laid decorated stones “in remembrance, reflection or positivity”.
In all, five trust workers have died during the outbreak, including staff nurse Areema Nasreen.
The 36-year-old lost her life in the early hours of April 3 at Walsall Manor Hospital, the place where she had worked throughout her career, after contracting the virus.
The mother-of-three was the first in her family to graduate and, speaking at the time of her death, Areema’s sister Kazeema Nasreen said “we’ve lost an amazing person”.
Among those laying a stone was trust chief executive Richard Beeken.
He also paid tribute to Mrs Nasreen, describing her in turn as a “staff nurse, sister, wife, mother, close colleague and friend”.
Mr Beeken said: “This memorial garden will enable us to remember the personal sacrifice made, the effort, the tears shed and of course to remember loved departed family and friends.”
He added that the Black Country had had the highest death rate in the UK, proportionate to its population.
“In the Black Country we are absolutely in the eye of that storm,” said Mr Beeken.
“To respond to that, a huge number of sacrifices have been made.
“There has been a huge effort from colleagues across the organisation and organisations that support us.
“A huge amount of discretionary effort and additional hours worked, for which no amount of additional pay will ever make compensation.
“Colleagues have lost friends and family to Covid, and colleagues have lost their own colleagues to Covid.”
Anna Harding, trust matron for medicine who came up with the idea, said: “While we’re by no means out the other side of the pandemic yet, staff have said they want to do something to either remember lost loved ones or to boost the morale of our teams who continue to work so hard to support patients, families and each other at this time.”
Adding the memorial was intending to be permanent, she said: “We’re going to make sure all the stones are glossed and they remain because Covid-19 is healthcare history.”