EXCLUSIVE: Thomas Harvey wasn’t given personal protective equipment, such as a mask, at London’s Goodmayes Hospital and had been caring for a patient who was infected with coronavirus before he fell ill, a friend says
An NHS worker died in self-isolatio inn at home after he was believed to have contracted coronavirus while treating an infected patient, a former colleague says.
Police officers had to break down a door to retrieve the body of dad-of-seven Thomas Harvey after he collapsed on Sunday morning.
The 57-year-old grandad, who worked at Goodmayes Hospital in Ilford, north-east London, had spent weeks “fighting for his life” after developing symptoms including a cough, shortness of breath, weakness, and aches and pains all over his body.
He wasn’t given personal protective equipment (PPE) such as a mask at work, and he didn’t know if he was infected with coronavirus because he wasn’t given a test, claims longtime friend and colleague of his who did not wish to be named.
She believes his death could have been prevented had he been given a Covid-19 test immediately and hospitalised for treatment.
She said: “This is not an old man, he was 57.
“He should have been taken into hospital and been looked after. Everybody has different symptoms.
“What made it worse was dying at home where Thomas and his family had memories together.
“If Thomas had died in hospital it would have been a lot easier.
“To have him at home, to see him at home suffering and the brutal way he died at home… I don’t know if they will ever recover from that.”
Healthcare assistant Mr Harvey, who lived in Hackney, had three grandchildren, was married to his wife Marcia for 22 years, and was in his third decade working for the NHS.
His family remain in self-isolation and are unable to plan a funeral for him. His body was tested for coronavirus and his wife is waiting for the result.
An online crowdfunding campaign has been launched to raise money for his grief-stricken family.
The GoFundMe page was set up by his former colleague, who told Mirror Online: “Thomas was infected by one of the patients that was brought in.
“They did a test on the patient and it came back positive. It was Thomas who looked after this patient.
“He wasn’t provided with any protective clothing to wear.
“They moved the patient from the ward and sent her somewhere else, in quarantine.”
Mr Harvey’s colleague said he went into self-isolation at home on March 14. He was staying in a front room on the ground floor while his family remained in other parts of the home.
She added: “He was too weak to walk upstairs. I spoke to him several times during that time and he had a cough and was very weak. He did not have a fever.
“For two weeks he didn’t eat anything. He was just taking fluids.”
The woman, who has known the family for 17 years, said Mrs Harvey called for an ambulance as her husband’s condition worsened and was instructed to call NHS 111.
She added: “She told them that he was getting worse and they told her to go on the Government website and to follow the instructions there.
“She was told he should remain in isolation and not come into the hospital.”
Last Wednesday, an ambulance arrived at the family’s home and medics carried out tests, she said.
She added: “His wife said he was struggling to breathe. They didn’t take him [to a hospital] because he didn’t have a fever.”
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Mr Harvey remained in isolation at home and collapsed when he went into the toilet on Sunday morning.
She said: “His wife went to make him some tea and her son called out, ‘Dad can’t breathe, he can’t breathe’.
“By the time she ran downstairs she heard a bang.
“He had collapsed and he was trapped inside behind the door.
“They tried to push the door open but they couldn’t get it open, so they started to break down the door.
“His wife called the police and the police broke down the door and got him out and they started CPR on him in the front room.”
She said paramedics arrived and CPR was performed for about 45 minutes before Mr Harvey was pronounced dead.
She added: “His wife said they got his heart started and then it stopped again. It would start and then stop and it repeated.
“When she called the ambulance she said he is an NHS worker. She was in tears.
“She said the other times she kept calling she said he was NHS staff and he wasn’t well, but nobody was listening to her.
“He was so dedicated to his job. He shouldn’t have died like that.
“He was like a hero to me.
“When Thomas came in the ward in the morning he would go to every single patient and say good morning to them.
“If a patient needed something he would go beyond his call of duty to make sure that the patient got it
“Nothing was too much for him to do for his patients, and his patients recognised that and they would all leave excellent reports about the care they received from him.
“Everybody loved him, everybody is in total shock.”
His colleague has called on the Government to equip frontline NHS staff with PPE such as masks, goggles, gloves and gowns.
She said: “My brother is a plumber. He gave me a face mask and goggles after Thomas died on Sunday.”
She warned that more NHS workers will die if they aren’t given proper gear to protect themselves.
She added: “It’s just not good enough. We’ve had time to prepare for this.
“We’ve got staff dying from this terrible disease.
“We’re not equipped to fight this war, to fight this enemy… it’s like we’re just going in there empty-handed and we’re expected to save lives.
“It’s mad and it’s not like we didn’t know we were going to go into this war, we knew and no preparation was made and we’re just left to get on with this.
“I keep thinking, ‘Maybe tomorrow I could be next’.
“How many of us are going lose our lives before the Government does something?
“I want them to come to the hospitals and see what we’re going through, come and see us doing our jobs without equipment.
“We’re putting ourselves at risk, we have families as well.
“Who is going look after us when we are sick?”
The GoFundMe set up to support Mr Harvey’s family read: “We are raising money for the late Thomas’ family, to help with funeral expenses and to move on after he was suddenly taken away by the Covid19.
“Thomas was a devoted member of the NHS for over 20 years and loved his job to the fullest.
“He looked after all his patients to the best of his ability and was loved by many.
“He was a cherished colleague, a husband, a father, a grandfather and a best friend.
“Unfortunately after treating a Covid19 patient on his ward, he contracted the virus and passed away suddenly after fighting for his life for nearly 2 weeks.
“Please help us raise money to help is family get through this difficult time.”
The page had raised more than £2,800 as of Tuesday afternoon.