Doctor calls for recognition of migrant workers after death of nurse friend

A doctor who lost a friend and fellow healthcare professional to coronavirus has called for the UK to recognise the contribution of migrant workers after the pandemic.

Mr Salah Hammouche is a former colleague of Sister Leilani Dayrit and suggested that NHS facilities could be named after professionals like her who lost their lives on the frontline of the outbreak.

Ms Dayrit, a nurse from St Cross Hospital in Rugby, died on April 7 and is one of several Filipino NHS workers to die after contracting Covid-19 over the last week.

“She will be remembered as a very compassionate nurse, a hard-working nurse, as a mother… we will remember her as a friend,” Mr Hammouche told the PA news agency.

“She was one of the best… she always went the extra mile to look after her patients and colleagues.”

A GoFundMe page set up for Ms Dayrit’s husband and daughter, which has raised over £11,000, described her as an “unsung hero” who was dedicated to the NHS for 16 years.

Leilani Dayrit
Mr Hammouche described Ms Dayrit as a ‘wonderful nurse’ (Family handout/PA)

Mr Hammouche, a trauma and orthopaedic registrar, who was born in Syria before moving to the UK 13 years ago, said he hopes the contribution of international healthcare workers will be highlighted.

“We all know that the environment and the tone in the country has sadly changed over the last few years, with Brexit and other stuff, towards migrants and migrant workers,” Mr Hammouche said.

“Lei was obviously not born in this country… when you look at the figures and the names of the people who sadly passed away… the majority of them were not.

“I hope that the contribution of international medics, nurses, physiotherapists, and even us losing our lives and loved ones to save the patients of this country, hopefully, will help to build better harmony.

“We all signed up to treat patients, to make them better… We did not sign up to die on the frontline, but we are all happy to risk our lives to make sure this country and the world can overcome this pandemic.

“Once the pandemic has subsided I think it would be a good contribution to name wards or parts of NHS facilities after the names of these people who have passed away fighting the coronavirus.”

Salah Hammouche
Mr Hammouche says the tone towards migrants in the UK changed in recent years (Courtesy of Salah Hammouche)

Mr Hammouche, who has also worked at the Royal London Hospital and Great Ormond Street, added that generally the UK has been a “very loving” and “very welcoming” country since he arrived and he hopes that continues.

He also said he is thankful for the displays of support shown by the public and media towards healthcare workers, saying “it’s nice to feel appreciated and valued”.

Mr Hammouche warned that Covid-19 coronavirus is “no joke”, adding: “We know patients who will just develop mild symptoms in the morning and by the afternoon they will be on a ventilator and by the evening they pass away.”

Mr Hammouche thanked his colleagues, and said he is “so honoured to be a member of these teams”.

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