New Delhi: The coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of eight doctors so far in the United Kingdom and all of them were immigrants. These physicians had come from India, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Sudan to practice in the UK.
According to a report by The New York Times, foreign doctors in UK have found work in places and practices that put them on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. This is in sharp contrast to British doctors who dominate the otherwise prestigious disciplines.
Over a third of the doctors in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) hospitals are immigrants. As of March 2019, 20 per cent of over 1.2 million staff employed by the NHS came from the BAME backgrounds (black, asian, minority ethnic).
This proportion gets further skewed when it comes to doctors. Over 43 per cent of the senior NHS doctors and 47 per cent of the junior physicians are from BAME backgrounds, as of March 2019.
UK Heath Secretary Matt Hancock has said, “Many of those who have died who are from the NHS where people who came to this country to make a difference, and they did, and they’ve given their lives in sacrifice, and we salute them.”
Over two years ago, however, 1,500 visa applications from doctors with job offers were refused by the government. This was because of a cap on the number of tier two visas issued to workers from outside the European Economic Area.
The NYT report also claims that Britain saves over $270,000 in taxpayers money by recruiting foreign doctors. Despite this, foreign physicians have to shell out thousands of dollars in annual visa fee. On top of that, there is also a $500 charge for using the health service they work for.
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Olamide Dada, founder of Melanin Medics, an organisation dedicated to supporting medical professionals from the African-Caribbean community, has said that BAME doctors “deserved to be treated with respect” because of their work on the frontline of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
“This shows that they just wanted to serve, their contributions are equally important as the next person, whether they have been born in the UK or not,” she added.
As of Wednesday, the British government said the pandemic has claimed over 7,097 lives in the nation so far.
Immigrant doctors who died
The eight doctors who died due to coronavirus were Amged el-Hawrani, 55, and Adil El Tayar, 64, from Sudan; Habib Zaidi, 76, a general practitioner from Pakistan; Alfa Sa’adu, 68, a geriatric doctor from Nigeria; Jitendra Rathod, 62, a heart surgeon from India; Anton Sebastianpillai, in his 70s, a geriatric doctor from Sri Lanka; Mohamed Sami Shousha, 79, a breast tissue specialist from Egypt; and Syed Haider, in his 80s, a general practitioner from Pakistan.
Dr Adil El-Tayar from Sudan’s Atbara had graduated from the University of Khartoum and initially decided to help people suffering from kidney diseases that had swept across sub-Saharan Africa.
But a deteriorating political situation in Sudan had forced El-Tayar to migrate to the UK. In his adopted land, however, he lost his status as a senior doctor that he had enjoyed in Sudan.
El-Tayar took up work filling in at a surgical assessment unit in Herefordshire, northwest of London, and examined patients coming through the emergency room.
The doctor’s family now believes that he may have contracted coronavirus there.
His cousin, Dr el-Khidir, has said that El-Tayar’s death could have been avoided had the UK’s health service begun screening hospital patients for coronavirus sooner.
Also from Sudan, Dr Amged el-Hawrani, was an ear, nose and throat specialist. He, along with his family, had also come from Sudan’s Khartoum to Taunton, a town in England, in 1975. He had once told his brother that he “wanted to be an orthopaedic surgeon but felt that maybe because of certain prejudices he didn’t get it”.
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