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British Muslim doctors and nurses first of their profession to die of Coronavirus

24th Apr 2020
British Muslim doctors and nurses first of their profession to die of Coronavirus

Elham Asaad Buaras

Eight British Muslim doctors and two Muslim nurses, died after contracting Covid-19, becoming the first of their profession to pass away from the deadly virus in the UK.

The head of the British Medical Association has called on the Government to urgently investigate if and why Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are more vulnerable to Covid-19, after the first 10 doctors in the UK named as having died from the virus were all BAME.

The doctors hailed from Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Sudan. The fact that all of the doctors to die were from BAME backgrounds is less surprising when placed in the context of the makeup of the NHS workforce.

Even allowing for the over-representation of BAME staff in the NHS – they comprise 44 per cent of medical staff compared with 14 per cent of the population of England and Wales – the fact that they were all from ethnic minorities was “extremely disturbing and worrying”, the BMA Chair said.

“At face value, it seems hard to see how this can be random – to have the first 10 doctors of all being of BAME background,” Dr Chaand Nagpaul said. “Not only that, we also know that in terms of the BAME population, they make up about a third of those in intensive care. There’s a disproportionate percentage of BAME people getting ill.”

In a moving tribute Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said, “They came to this country to make a difference, and they did. They made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Many members of the public took to Twitter to pay tribute to the medics and their contribution to the UK, while others urged the far-right to remember their sacrifice. ‘Next time some xenophobe tells you that Muslims and immigrants are a drain on the NHS just remind them of these names,’ wrote one. ‘Don’t want to hear Muslims being lectured on “British values” again,’ said another.


The medics who died fighting Covid-19

On April 14 care home nurse Rahima Bibi Sidhanee became the tenth Muslim in the medical profession to die of Covid 19. Her family described how she “gave her life to nursing”. Sidhanee, 68, had been working right up until the time she became ill. She had refused to retire so that she could stay with patients, losing her battle against the virus on Easter Sunday.

Her loss came amid mounting fears about the scale of deaths in the care home sector, with 290 out of around 1,300 care homes in the capital thought to have coronavirus present.

She had been working at the Grennell Lodge nursing and care home in Sutton for the past 20 years and had rebuffed pleas from her family to retire or take a break when coronavirus started spreading.

Her son, Abu Sidhanee, 41, a children’s physiotherapist for University College London Hospitals, said, “She said the elderly people needed her, and she started doing an extra shift. That was how she was, people needed her and she was there. She was so dedicated and caring. She was bubbly and much loved at the home.”

Consultant urologist Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury died on April 9. Chowdhury, who was born in Bangladesh, passed away 21 days after he fell ill and 15 days after he was admitted to hospital. Chowdhury appealed for more PPE just weeks before he died.

At 53, he is the youngest doctor to die of Covid-19. The Muslim Doctors Association paid tribute to him in a statement, which reads, ‘We are deeply saddened by the death of Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, Consultant Urologist at Homerton Hospital, after fighting for his life from Covid-19.’

On March 18, he wrote a Facebook message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to ‘urgently’ ensure personal protective equipment for ‘each and every NHS worker in the UK’. He told the PM that healthcare workers “are in direct contact with patients” and have a “human right like others to live in this world disease-free with our family and children”.

Chowdhury was a locum urologist who worked at Homerton Hospital in East London and died at Queen’s Hospital in Romford after testing positive for coronavirus.

GP Dr Fayaz Ayache died on April 8. Ayache, 76, who ran an ear, nose and throat clinic at Ipswich Hospital, had worked for the NHS in Suffolk for more than four decades and helped raise funds for refugees in his birth country of Syria.

Retired GP who felt ‘duty-bound’ to return to work dies from coronavirus

He retired as a GP two years ago but his eldest daughter Layla suspects he kept helping patients in his village. She said, ‘My dad was very, very commonly phoned and people would say “my daughter’s ill” or “my son’s ill” or “my husband’s ill”.

“He would often pop round and just check people were OK. He was a rural village GP at heart and that’s the sort of thing that he would do”. I wholeheartedly believe that if someone had called him with a concern he would have gone over and checked they were OK, because that’s what he wanted to do for everybody.’

GP Dr Zeeshan Haider Abidi died on April 6 at Queen’s Hospital. Dr Haider, who was in his 80s and lived in Essex is the second Pakistani origin doctor to lay down his life against the deadly virus.

After developing symptoms Dr Haider was shifted to the hospital where he stayed for one week, but he was unable to recover from the damage caused by the Covid-19. Dr Abidi’s son

Dr Kumail, paying tribute to his father, told The News that, “Many described him as a selfless man driven by his passion for his profession. Even whilst in hospital breathing his last, he was urging doctors and nurses to pay attention to other patients rather than him.”

Nurse Areema Nasreen died on April 3. The 36-year-old mother-of-three Nasreen had been placed on a ventilator at Walsall Manor Hospital where she worked in the acute medical unit. The eldest daughter of parents from Mirpur, Pakistan, she grew up in Birmingham and took huge comfort from looking after her grandmother – an experience that propelled her to keep on helping people.

Her sister, Kazeema, said the family is “heartbroken” but praised the staff caring for her who have gone ‘above and beyond’. Kazeema, who is also a nurse, urged everyone to “take coronavirus seriously.”

Asked about when her sister first became ill, Kazeema stated Areema had said there was “slight leg ache” before texting about two hours later, saying “the pain’s coming up”. The UK’s largest nursing union has warned that it is “inevitable” more health workers will die with coronavirus.

Cancer tissue expert Professor Mohamed Sami Shousha died on April 2. A prominent British-Egyptian doctor, Shousha, 79, had been working at Charing Cross Hospital since 1978, where he managed the breast histopathology service.

He was an Honorary Professor of histopathology at Imperial College London. Shousha died two weeks after contracting the virus. Abdelrahman said his uncle was “very keen to work in his finals, despite the health hazards.” The father of two also worked at UK cancer research laboratories at London’s Hammersmith and Charing Cross hospitals.

Former pupil, Dr Neha Tabassum, tweeted, ‘My prayers and thoughts are with his family. It’s so sad to hear this news, I am in tears. Professor Sami Shousha was one of my mentors. Without his support, my PhD would not have been possible. He was such an amazing human being.’

On March 31, Geriatrician Dr Alfa Sa’adu died. Nigeria-born Sa’adu, 68, a retired doctor, did locum at Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. He worked as a medical director and consultant physician at Ealing Hospital. He stepped down as medical director of the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in 2016.

He was a past President of the Royal Society of Medicine Geriatrics and Gerontology group, and was an active member of the BGS, having been Chair of the North West Thames Region and an examiner for the Diploma in Geriatric Medicine.

The President of the BGS, Professor Tash Masud, said, “It is a measure of his commitment to caring for older people’s health that he continued to work as a locum after retiring. He had worked in many hospitals across his eminent 40-year career and was an educator and advocate who enthused others with his love of medicine. We send sincere condolences to his family and Dr Sa’adu’s wide network of friends across the profession.”

On March 28, Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon Amged El-Hawrani died at Leicester Royal Infirmary. The 55-year old was being treated on a ventilator for two weeks. He is the second surgeon of Sudanese descent to die of the virus. His death was announced by the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton where he worked as Associate Clinical Director and Ear, Nose and Throat Consultant. His family described him as a “loving and much-loved husband, son, father, brother and friend.”

His 18-year-old son Ashraf said, “Most of my dad’s time was dedicated towards his family, and the rest of that time was dedicated towards his profession.”

“He taught me the significance of respect and equality. He also stressed the importance of not worrying about the things I cannot control, which he displayed to me right up until the end of his life. He did not seek the praise and approval of others, he was satisfied with viewing the positive effects of his actions and the wellbeing of his family. I am incredibly proud to say that for 18 years of my life, Amged El-Hawrani was my father.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS, National Medical Director, said, “The NHS is a family, and we all feel deeply the loss of any of our colleagues, but as we all continue to unite and work together to tackle the spread of coronavirus, I know that the whole of the NHS and the public we serve will want to extend our sympathies to the El-Hawrani family.”

Veteran GP Dr Habib Zaidi died on March 25. The 76-year-old who worked as a GP in Leigh-on-Sea for over four decades, died at Southend University Hospital while suffering “textbook symptoms” of Covid-19. His daughter, Dr Sarah Zaidi, also a GP, said, “For that to be the thing that took him is too much to bear. It is reflective of his sacrifice.”

Zaidi, who moved to the UK from Pakistan over 50 years ago, was presented with the lifetime achievement award of an “unsung hero” last year by the local Southend healthcare system. ‘That pretty much describes, in a nutshell, his nearly five decades of devoted service as a GP. Not only did he serve his patients, working tirelessly for them, but he never stopped driving to innovate, continually develop, and drive up quality.’

Organs transplant specialist Adil El Tayar also died on March 25. British-Sudanese El Tayar, 63, who had worked around the world, spent his final days volunteering on the frontlines against the outbreak in an A&E department in the Midlands.

El Tayar’s famed journalist cousin Zeinab Badawi paid tribute to him, “He wanted to be deployed where he would be most useful in the crisis.” She added, “It had taken just 12 days for Adil to go from a seemingly fit and capable doctor working in a busy hospital to lying in a hospital morgue, but there is nothing like a death in the family to bring home the realities of what we are facing.”

El Tayar who at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, started self-isolating at home after developing symptoms about two weeks before he died. His family was told that his lungs had “come under attack” from the virus and he could no longer breathe unaided.

The British Ambassador to Sudan Irfan Siddiq tweeted, ‘Saddened to hear of Sudanese doctor Adel Altayar’s death in the UK from Covid-19. Health workers around the world have shown extraordinary courage. We cannot thank them enough. In this fight, we must listen to their advice.’

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