It seems incredible this far into the coronavirus pandemic that the question over the provision of personal protection equipment should still be a burning issue. We have heard mind-boggling figures of how many pieces of PPE have been ordered and how many have been delivered but, for those on frontline health services, the problem is that the vital safety equipment is not reaching all of those who need it.
Ps in north and west Belfast, in Fermanagh and in Londonderry have expressed concern that they cannot adequately protect themselves or their practice nurses. So serious is their concern they are threatening to withdraw services, a last ditch measure given that family doctors are the gateway to the health service and specialised services.
Those involved in community care where staff make three or four visits per day to clients have also expressed concern over the lack of adequate PPE. It is accepted without question that those doctors and nurses in hospital dealing directly with the most seriously ill patients are at the top of the pecking order when it comes to PPE but that does not mean that everyone else in the chain of treating patients, who may or may not have the virus, should be left defenceless.
If the Department of Health is in any doubt about the seriousness of the situation, then they should listen to the opinion of an experienced solicitor who says the Department could be sued if health service staff, and consequently their families, become infected through lack of PPE.
All of this makes the reluctance of deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill to accept that the Army could be called in to distribute PPE to where it is needed all the more nonsensical. Has she a better idea or is it just republican ideology running riot?
We cannot ask health service staff to put their lives constantly on the line because of logistics. It is an indication of the depths to which the NHS was left to wither that in spite of so many now going more than the extra mile and extra money being found for all sorts of equipment that now, as the peak of the infection is upon us, the health service is still struggling to keep pace with the demands upon it. This is something which must be borne in mind when this pandemic is finally conquered.
The diary of one medical expert on the frontline shows that such wartime analogies are appropriate. They are engaged in life and death struggles every hour of the day and are heroes.