St George’s Hospital: Covid staff reveal ‘unpredictability’ of second coronavirus wave as young patients fall ill

A nurse works on a patient in the Intensive Care Unit in St George's Hospital Credit: PA

Staff at one of London’s busiest hospitals have described the “unpredictability” of the second wave of coronavirus, which has seen previously healthy young patients die with Covid-19.

Coronavirus deaths since the summer have been characterised partly by increased numbers of young adults being admitted to hospital.

And staff at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south London, said they are treating patients in their 20s and 30s, many seriously ill.

The number of intensive care beds for the critically sick has had to be increased from 60 to 120 Credit: PA

Salvatore Patinella, 30, senior staff nurse in the hospital’s acute dependency unit, said: “The situation is really serious.

“Initially we saw patients who were older – now patients who are really young are getting sick.

“It requires a lot of attention. You try the best to encourage them because they demoralise themselves, they get down, we just give the best we can, have a chat and encourage them.

“If they do the right thing, hopefully they will get better and get out of this hospital.”

A patient is prepared for transfer from the Acute Dependency Unit Credit: PA

His colleague, medical registrar Omome Etomi, said it is impossible to predict the profile of patients brought in for care – and whether they will survive.

The 28-year-old said: “We are seeing patients across the spectrum, from their 20s right up to people in their 80s and 90s.

“It’s so unpredictable – I can’t tell you who’s going to be unwell and not, who’s going to improve and go home and who’s going to have a longer stay in ITU.

“I have admitted patients to the intensive care unit in their 20s and 30s, people who have no pre-existing conditions.

“There’s almost no pattern to it – we just can’t say.

“That’s why we all have to be so careful – your friend might have a mild illness but you don’t know how it’s going to be reintroduced in you.”

Intensive care consultant Dr Mohamed Ahmed, 40, said: “What’s apparent from the first and second wave is that you have patients in their 20s and 30s now.

“We have a gentleman here in his 30s who is incredibly sick – he had no underlying problems. That’s a bit of a shocker for us.”

Staff nurses walk through the Emergency Department Credit: PA

Emergency department consultant Mark Haden said families of “otherwise fit and healthy young people” are “distraught” that their loved ones are being admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms.

And he warned everyone to heed the advice on keeping safe, and not be tempted to break the rules.

Dr Haden, 36, said: “Because a lot of these infections are asymptomatic, people may think that by breaking the rules and by mixing and by not washing their hands, not wearing a mask, that has no effects.

“But every time you break a rule, every time you pass on an infection, at the end of that chain of infection someone is going to get it severely, and someone is going to die from it.

“Although they may not see the consequences of breaking the rules, we see it every day in hospital and these things have very real consequences for patients.”