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Two nurses deaths from COVID-19 ruled as industrial disease

Two nurses who died from COVID-19 during the pandemic have had their deaths ruled as caused by industrial disease

Two nurses who died from COVID-19 during the pandemic have had their deaths ruled as caused by industrial disease.

Gareth Roberts, 65, from Aberdare and Domingo David, 63, from Penarth were working for hospitals under the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board in the early months of the pandemic.

Senior Coroner Graeme Hughes from the South Wales central coroner’s court ruled that even though both nurses were wearing the appropriate PPE, Mr Roberts and Mr David were still exposed to COVID-19 at work causing them to become infected, leading to their deaths.

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The RCN instructed Matthew Turner, a barrister from Doughty Street Chambers, to represent the family of Mr Roberts in this inquest.

The family were concerned that Mr Roberts was not properly risk assessed and whether he was provided with appropriate PPE while regularly working 12 hour shifts.

‘Gareth spent his whole life protecting and caring for others, but we feel that the Health Board let him down when he needed them the most. Gareth was a 65 year old, Type 2 diabetic but no risk assessment was carried out for him,’ they said.

The inquest found that the Health Board were following the correct health guidance for PPE at the time, however that guidance changed in March 2020.

The Public Health Infection Prevention and Control guidance on COVID-19 first came into effect in January 2020.

‘That guidance said that anyone treating COVID suspect or COVID positive patients would need to wear full PPE. This included full length gowns and gloves with no gaps, visors and masks. Then on the 13th March 2020 that changed,’ said Mr Turner.

The new guidance actually reduced the PPE required to be worn by staff to a fluid repellant mask, plastic gloves and aprons.

‘I was shocked by this,’ expressed Mr Turner.

Director of RCN Wales, Helen Whyley had expressed the concern that the union had about the lack of PPE and guidance on its use in healthcare settings in Wales during the pandemic.

She said: ‘I wrote to the Welsh Government, and RCN Wales gave briefings to them on more than one occasion, detailing our concerns that the guidance was constantly changing and confusing, and that the lack of PPE was undoubtedly having an impact on the transmission of COVID-19.’

‘Our members were surveyed in May 2020, during the first months of the pandemic, with over 73% of nursing staff who responded, saying they had raised concerns over the inadequate levels of PPE.’

Mr Turner reported that the evidence at the inquest showed Mr Roberts to be passionate, skilled and a hard-working nurse.

‘This case serves to show the risks that nurses take for us on a daily basis, and it’s time the Government starts to recognise this,’ he said.