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UK's Covid-19 daily deaths hit record as medics grapple with fatigue

Hospital staff grappling with fatigue and loss as death rates double from first wave

LONDON : At Milton Keynes University Hospital, it is a battle between life and death. For those most ill, death is gaining the upper hand.

Overall, daily deaths in Britain hit a record 1,820 on Wednesday, breaking Tuesday's record daily toll and taking the total number of deaths to 93,290.

The latest wave has hit Milton Keynes University Hospital north-west of London with even more force than the first: Younger patients fill its wards and fewer of the sickest people respond to treatment.

Doctors and nurses are grappling with the strain of exhaustion and loss.

DIFFICULT

Dr Joy Halliday is in charge of a high-dependency unit for Covid-19. It is a step down from an intensive care unit (ICU), and severely ill patients there are receiving oxygen.

Dr Halliday said with visits curtailed, doctors and nurses were supporting patients emotionally as well as medically.

"I can only imagine how difficult that is for family at the end of the telephone to be told that their loved one is getting worse," she said.

"It's difficult for us to see and it's even more difficult for them."

The youngest person being ventilated in the hospital is just 28.

In the ICU, Dr Wassim Shamsuddin, clinical director for anaesthesia and intensive care, said: "This time around what we're finding is that patients aren't faring as well if they need to be invasively ventilated," he told Reuters.

"Our mortality (rate) probably in the first wave for patients coming onto intensive care was around 40 per cent. This time around we find the mortality is about 80 per cent."

He said intensive care staff were not used to such high levels of death.

"Intensive care hospitals are meant to be a place where we treat patients and make them better. The difficulty here is that even though we try our best and we throw everything at the patients, it just doesn't seem to be working," he said.

Dr Halliday echoed the view that it was tougher this time around.

"It's draining. It's draining physically. It's draining mentally," she said.

"It's difficult to keep going on a day-to-day basis for staff, just to see death in death out, every day. - REUTERS

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