A British doctor who warned United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson that health workers on the front line did not have enough personal protection equipment (PPE) has died of COVID-19.
Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, a 53-year-old consultant in the urology department at Queen Elizabeth hospital in Romford, worked for the NHS for more than 20 years after migrating from Bangladesh.
He died on Wednesday aged 53 after spending 15 days in hospital.
In a Facebook post on March 18 directly addressing Johnson, Chowdhury urged the prime minister to provide PPE for “each and every NHS health worker in the UK”, as he called for him to fast-track testing for medical staff.
Doctors, nurses and other workers who are in direct contact with patients were trying to help, he wrote, “but we are also human beings [with] human rights like others [trying] to live in this world disease free with our family and children.”
While he appreciated moral support being given to NHS workers, “we have to protect ourselves and our families and kids in this global disaster crisis by using appropriate PPE and remedies,” he said.
“I hope we are by default entitled to get this minimal support for our safe medical practice.”
Adnan Pavel, Chowdhury’s friend, described him as an “enthusiastic” mentor to young British Bangladeshi men in the UK and a selfless philanthropist to vulnerable people in Bangladesh.
“He was such a good man. He was always very helpful to everyone. He was a man with life,” Pavel told Al Jazeera.
Last year, Pavel and Chowdhury delivered a motivational speech to British Bangladeshi men who had just graduated or were about to apply to university.
“He wanted to inspire them so that they could fulfil their calibre and become a successful doctor, engineer, journalist, academic, lawyer or accountant,” he said.
“Because Dr Chowdhury was a senior doctor, he always actively helped junior doctors so that they could fulfil their career aspirations as well.”
“He personally initiated many medical projects in remote villages in Bangladesh [providing] free medical treatment.”
On February 8, Pavel interviewed Chowdhury for a TV programme on a Bangladeshi community channel, NTV Europe, about concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.
“Dr Chowdhury started talking about the [coronavirus] issue from the very beginning, asking why the British government and other European countries weren’t taking rigorous and strict measures to control it.
“He was worried developing countries like Bangladesh will be the worst victim of this crisis because of economic issues and improvised healthcare issues,” said Pavel.
Chowdhury’s death came amid mounting concerns that medical workers are not receiving adequate PPE.
Some have claimed that they have had to share PPE, while reports in UK media suggest some nurses have resorted to using bin bags as aprons.
Asif Munaf, an acute medical registrar who works across the East Midlands, told Al Jazeera: “We’ve learned from the countries such as Taiwan and South Korea that full PPE for front line staff is absolutely crucial in circumventing the patient-staff spread as well as more general surface contact spread.
“This has resulted in fewer healthcare staff deaths than would otherwise have transpired.
“Despite the stark warnings from Italian doctors as well as our own NHS front line, most notably Dr Chowdhury who has passed away this week after his posting a Facebook status about his concerns, the government seem to be deploying an ‘it will be ok’ attitude in the face of a growing crisis.
“How many more front line deaths will we have to seen before adequate PPE is rolled out across the NHS?”