Grieving brother calls for nurses pay rise after losing his siblings to Covid-19

Pat Canavan lost his brother, Noel, and sister, Bridget, to coronavirus within weeks of each other. Credit: UTV

A man whose brother and sister both died of coronavirus just weeks apart says nurses here should get the same 4% pay rise being offered in Scotland, and not the 1% rise proposed by Westminster.

Pat Canavan witnessed at first hand, the pressures nursing staff have been under throughout the pandemic as they cared for his siblings.

Pat's brother Noel, 68, became ill with coronavirus and was soon placed on a ventilator at Craigavon Area Hospital. A few days later, his 64-year-old sister Bridget Hurrell was rushed into the same ward. Both in a coma, neither ever knew the other was there. Noel died in hospital in February., while Bridget died on the same ward three weeks later.

"I'm glad I took videos because on days when I'm feeling down it makes your day.

"I'm still in shock, I still don't believe that this happened twice."

The last time Pat spoke to his siblings was on the phone, just before they were placed on ventilators.

The last time he saw them was on a nurse's video phone, in a final farewell, just before they died.

That is one of the worst things to get - that video call to say your loved one is being placed on a ventilator because there is very little chance they'll be coming off it.

Pat Canavan, who lost his sister and brother to coronavirus within weeks of each other

With nearly 3,000 recorded coronavirus deaths in Northern Ireland, the pandemic has taken its toll on an exhausted nursing force.

Pat says nurses here are deserving of the same 4% pay rise being afforded to nurses in Scotland - as opposed to the 1% pay rise proposed by the UK Government.

"Everybody knows that nurses are underpaid but nobody is doing anything about it.

"I didn't realise the things they do until it came to my door.

When Pat expressed fears his siblings could die alone, he was soon put at ease by the nursing staff.

"They said that will never happen. The nurse said I will be holding his hand and if I'm not on, another nurse will."

The nurses, true to their word, stayed with both siblings until the end.

In a statement, the Department of Health said it is committed "to a fair pay settlement for all healthcare staff."


  • Video report by Deborah McAleese: