NHS Auxiliary Nurse Quits After Being Ordered Not to Wear a Mask

Graffiti depicting the badge of the fictional super heros Superman and Superwoman, and the logo of Britain's National Health Service (NHS) above street art of a nurse, are pictured on a wall in Pontefract, northern England on April 3, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to …
OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

A National Health Service (NHS) worker resigned from her job after her superiors ordered her to take off a medical mask she bought to protect herself and her patients from the Chinese coronavirus.

Tracy Brennan, a healthcare assistant, or auxiliary nurse, working at Hillingdon Hospitals NHS foundation trust in London, said that her bosses ordered her to take off her protective mask when she returned to work following two weeks of self-isolating due to her daughter displaying symptoms of the coronavirus.

Later that day, Brennan informed her superiors that while she was taking blood, a patient coughed into her face. Despite the incident, her bosses continued to deny her the ability to wear her protective equipment — which she provided herself — as she was not located in a coronavirus wing of the hospital.

“Upon arriving to work on Tuesday morning, whilst still wearing a mask, you asked me for a word in your office. You outlined to me that wearing a mask wasn’t following the trust policy and asked me to remove it,” she wrote to the trust, per The Guardian.

“With a heavy heart and sadness, I feel I have no alternative but to hand this letter in as my formal resignation and will be unable to work my notice due to not being allowed to wear sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for the duties I perform.”

In response to the resignation, a spokeswoman for the hospital trust said: “Our trust takes the safety of all our staff extremely seriously and we follow national guidelines, as set out by Public Health England. We regularly update staff on the types of PPE and the rules for its use … We are also providing extra support to our staff during the current emergency both for their physical and their mental health and wellbeing.”

While the British authorities have claimed that the shortages of PPE are a result of supply chain issues rather than actual shortages, but many frontline workers dispute this.

Countries across the world have been updating their position on the effectiveness of medical masks. On Friday, President Donald Trump announced that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is now advising all Americans to wear cloth masks when they leave their homes, although he urged citizens to leave medical-grade masks for frontline healthcare workers.

In Germany, the Robert Koch Institute has also updated its position on masks, now admitting that they can serve to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“Some infected people do not become ill at all (asymptomatic infection), but could still pass it on to others. In these cases, the precautionary wearing of masks could help to reduce the risk of transmission,” RKI said in a statement.

“Therefore, the wearing of temporary masks by people entering public places where the safety distance cannot be maintained, e.g. public transport, grocery stores or even at the workplace, could help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2,” the institute added.

The government of Austria has mandated the wearing of masks in supermarkets, while the Czech Republic for anyone out in public.

The Czech government has also urged countries throughout the world to adopt mask-wearing to halt the spread of the virus, supported by a grassroots campaign to have citizens produce masks in their homes.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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