Doctor with passion for photography captures hospital’s coronavirus battle

A doctor on the coronavirus front line has refocused his passion for photography to document his hospital’s battle with the virus.

Tuck Goh, who always carries a small camera in his pocket, has been capturing candid shots of his colleagues in the emergency department of the Ulster Hospital near Belfast as they respond to the Covid-19 crisis.

Dr Goh, a 59-year-old associate specialist who has worked in the hospital’s ED for 23 years, has travelled extensively pursuing his lifetime love of street photography.

At the outset of the pandemic, as the hospital undertook a major reconfiguration in preparation for the virus’s surge, he decided to keep a visual record of the events for generations to come.

Dr Tuck Goh works in the Emergency Department of the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast (Niall Carson/PA)

The doctor, who is originally from Malaysia but has lived in Northern Ireland for most of his life, continued his endeavours as the hospital started treating coronavirus patients, taking out his camera when circumstances permitted.

He uses a compact handheld camera, which he wraps in cling film and continually cleans with antibacterial wipes to comply with hygiene requirements.

“I felt a sense that I needed to document this very interesting and surreal period of our department,” he told the PA news agency.

“It fitted the genre and niche of my kind of photography. So I started off by taking photographs of just basically how we got ready for what’s to come and just documenting my fellow colleagues – doctors, nurses, porters, domiciliary staff – just to get a sense of what was involved, the scale of this thing.

“It was just to document this very special, interesting period of the department. And so that’s what I thought I should do. And that’s what I’ve been doing and still I’m doing even today.”

One of Dr Goh’s ED colleagues treats a patient (Tuck Goh/PA)

Dr Goh said his colleagues are comfortable with him depicting them at work.

“They know that I have a great passion for photography and I’ve been taking photographs for all my life,” he said.

“And they know that I normally have a camera in my hand. So they accept that ‘that’s him taking pictures’. So it’s not an issue. Plus, as well, almost all the doctors and all the patients are basically wearing face masks, so I think there’s less of a problem with confidentiality with these sort of photographs I think.”

Dr Goh’s pocket-sized camera wrapped in cling film (Niall Carson/PA)

The enthusiastic amateur photographer said he is careful to frame shots to protect the confidentiality of patients and, on the occasions when he does take images of them, he always asks permission first.

“I tend to do a fair bit of travelling,” he added.

“So I would travel to take street photography. But because obviously at the moment we can’t really do much travelling I’m very lucky in the sense that I’m still able to continue to indulge in my passion of street photography by doing photographs in the hospital.

“So it’s been very, very rewarding from my point of view.”

Dr Goh is hoping to exhibit his photos in the hospital when the crisis is over (Tuck Goh/PA)

The medic added: “I think this is a once in a lifetime event. And I think that the hospital itself would like to document this looking back on a pictorial form.

“So I think it’s important that we have this as proof of what’s happened for future generations to come.”

Dr Goh, who hopes to ultimately exhibit some of his photographs in the hospital, said he has never witnessed anything like the coronavirus outbreak.

“It’s very difficult for a lot of families and obviously very difficult for a lot of patients and there’s lot of suffering but hopefully we all pull through it,” he said.

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