As a young, pregnant woman at the frontline, Dr Meenal said “Our duties don’t stop at the hospital; it goes beyond the hospital walls, and that’s what made me go out and protest.”
Dr Meenal Viz put on her scrubs and went to silent protest at the daily-mounting toll of healthcare workers who have died of Covid-19 in London with a placard saying “Protect Healthcare Workers.” She and her husband worked in the emergency department and campaigned for better PPE (personal protective equipment) for their colleagues.
“First, we were told to wear full protected gear, then the next day we were told to wear a flimsy apron. We started to believe that we didn’t have enough protective gear.
It’s become normal not to have PPE or to accept that the guidelines about what’s required is based on supply, not science. People were dying as a result of it,” she said at Mojo.
Meenal was suffering from very serious pregnancy sickness. It brought her a lot of stress in the pandemic, “I didn’t know if I would come out of the hospital alive.” It was a very lonely time; she was scared and anxious and channeled that energy into something positive.
During the pandemic doctors from ethnic minority backgrounds were more likely to feel pressured to work without adequate PPE, and were more afraid to speak out about safety concerns for fear of recrimination, or it affecting their careers.
Meenal was told that Nurse Mary had passed away and the most heartbreaking part for it was that it could have been prevented. All these healthcare workers who have died, they could have been saved.
Nurse Mary had to deliver her child via the emergency c section and she never got to hold her baby. “I was in the same ward as Mary was for her delivery. And I was thinking, will I be treated differently because of my skin color or the name I have,” she said.
NHS has systematic inequalities and disparities that haven’t been tackled and our leaders have chosen not to act on it.
She started to realize the realities of the virus as the weeks went on and how ethnic minority groups were affected. “A black woman or a woman of color is likely to die four times more during childbirth than a white woman.”
Many women have continued to work through this even during their periods. I was pregnant and suffering from pregnancy sickness. “I was vomiting inside my mask, while six months pregnant.”
“My manager was preventing me from speaking to the media.” Nurse Mary most likely tried to escalate her concerns, but she was probably afraid that if she spoke up, she would lose her job.
“I was able to experience various aspects of pregnancy. I was going into clinics, getting scans, and I was completely alone.”
After 200 healthcare workers died, they realized that these things needed to be fixed more frequently and that high-quality protective gear was required.
She wrote to the government, and it took them six months to respond. “Whereas our leaders speak the language of politics, we speak the language of compassion and empathy.”
She discussed how, as a result of their legal challenge, they have ensured that all ethnic minority groups are subjected to a thorough risk assessment prior to admission to the program. They made certain that no masks or PPE were reused.
They created a panel to assess how ethnic minority groups can be better served and placed in hospitals.
She wants everyone to stand up for what they believe in and what they believe is the right thing to do, regardless of what others say.