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Tributes for Kerala doctor

Dr Poornima Nair’s passing does show Indian doctors are at the heart of the NHS
Dr Poornima Nair

Amit Roy   |   London   |   Published 14.05.20, 09:39 PM

As tributes continue to pour in for Dr Poornima Nair, 56, the first female general practitioner to have died from coronavirus in the UK, a patient has revealed how she saved his life.

Nair, a GP at the Station View medical centre in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, was admitted to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton on March 20 after showing symptoms of the virus. She was put on life support on March 27 and died on Tuesday, May 12, adding to the disproportionately high death toll among Indians, both among healthcare workers in the NHS and in the wider community.

An inquiry into deaths among Asians and blacks by Public Health England under Prof. Kevin Fenton, regional director of public health at PHE and NHS London, is expected to submit its report by the end of this month.

“PHE is rapidly building robust data and undertaking detailed analysis to develop our understanding of the impact of this novel coronavirus on different groups which can inform actions to mitigate the risks it presents,” he said.

Nair, originally from Kerala, moved to the UK from India in 1994 and worked in obstetrics and gynaecology at Bishop Auckland hospital before joining the practice where colleagues are mourning her loss. She is not thought to have had an underlying health problem.

One patient, Phil Graham, developed some puzzling symptoms that affected his strength and ability to walk in 2013. Struggling to stay upright, he visited his local GP, who diagnosed the rare and at times deadly disease that was ravaging his nervous system: Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Graham, 66, who says his life was saved by Nair, was devastated to learn she had died. “She made the right phone calls and ensured I got scanned and sorted out in rapid time. A lot of GPs with the best knowledge in the world don’t recognise Guillain-Barré syndrome because it’s so rare. People get misdiagnosed and people die,” said Graham, a former union branch secretary.

He spent 10 months in hospital paralysed from the neck down. There was a huge sense of relief when he was discharged in a wheelchair with some mobility returned to him.

“It was her actions that led to me being treated properly and expeditiously. She was like that with everybody. I’m not a special case here. She was genuinely loved in this community.”

Nair’s son, Varun, described her as a loving mother who “lived life to the fullest and spread joy and positivity to everyone that came in contact with her”.

He said: “She had an unwavering passion and love for her family, friends and every professional endeavour she took in life and her ambition and vitality inspired all around her. She devoted the last 26 years of her life working for the NHS.

“Her limitless love for her family, friends and patients can never be replaced and our memories of her life and her sacrifices will continue to inspire us.”

Tributes have flooded social media from politicians, former colleagues and community groups for the much-loved doctor.

Nair’s passing does show Indian doctors are at the heart of the NHS.

Sarah Westgarth, manager at her practice, told the BBC that Nair was positive, encouraging and caring towards her patients.

“Poornima’s heart was with the NHS. It’s very, very, harsh, the reality of what Covid-19 can do to people.”

Nair’s local MP Dehenna Davison said: “I’m deeply saddened to hear of the heart breaking loss of Dr Poornima Nair. Dr Nair was a well-known and extremely valued member of our community. She will be heavily missed by all that knew her.”

Durham County councillor Joy Allen said: “Another victim of coronavirus, a much loved, respected, and valued Doctor, who had helped so many patients in their time of need. Let’s hope the scientists find a vaccine soon so we can stop these tragic deaths.”

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