An open letter from Richard Parker (23 March)

Our Chief Executive, Richard Parker OBE, reflects upon one year with COVID-19.

On 21 March, we marked one year since we admitted and cared for our first COVID-19 positive patient. Since that time, we have experienced the most extraordinary year.

Just 12 months ago, our organisation was preparing for a once in a generation pandemic – uncertain as to what we could expect, and doing all we could to ensure we were ready for the oncoming storm. Now, one-year-on I am proud to reflect upon the compassion, dedication and fortitude shown by colleagues in the face of unprecedented challenge and great uncertainty.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement of a national lockdown on the evening of 23 March, I wrote an open letter to the people of Doncaster and Worksop. Despite the anxieties we all collectively felt at the time, I stated that, once the pandemic was over, we would reflect upon what we have achieved with a huge sense of pride. I believe this sentiment holds true today.

While we are not yet done with COVID-19, in the 365 days between that first patient and now, we have cared for over 3,150 people, safely discharging over 2,300 to continue their recovery. Colleagues have diligently cared for those suffering the worst effects of the disease, adapting to new ways of working as the country entered lockdown, never complaining or wishing to opt out.

As a Trust, we saw peaks of activity in May, and again in November, with our hospital one of the busiest in the country for a brief period of time. I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone for both their individual and team efforts. In times of emergency, an organisation’s true values become clear – and I believe that colleagues across the Trust have truly shown that ‘We Care’, pulling together in the most difficult of circumstances.

While we have so much to be proud of, like so many families across the country, as a Trust we have lost much-loved colleagues. We cherish the memories of our friends and co-workers, Kevin Smith, Dr Medhat Atalla and Lorraine Butterfield who passed away last year, following brief but extremely brave and determined battles with COVID-19.

Like many families words cannot account for the loss we feel, and their absence will be forever felt within our teams. However, we remember them for the joy they brought to us. The care, compassion and professionalism they embodied as health professionals. Each made a profound impact upon the lives of countless people, and we will remember them for this and I hope that the Rainbow Gardens we have created will provide a lasting monument to those we have lost.

During such a difficult year, I suspect that all wondered when the pandemic would end, but I am now more optimistic than ever before that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If infections continue to decline, in the next few weeks we will begin to see that more of the current restrictions will be eased, and if we continue to make progress, we can be able to meet family and friends again and return life to a more normal footing.

I believe we can all be extremely proud about how we responded to the challenges and what we achieved as communities. The sacrifices that everybody has made have not been easy, but I believe they have helped us to save lives and I have been truly humbled by the kindness shown to us in the form of kind donations and other efforts.

Finally, to all those keyworkers, not exclusively those within NHS and social care, I want to share my thanks, as well as those on behalf of the entirety of Team DBTH.

We couldn’t have achieved what we have without the support of those individuals who continued to supply and operate our police and fire services, supermarkets and local shops, our streets and neighbourhood teams, all those who delivered the essential items we needed every day, educated our young people, and everyone in between. To every single person defined as a key or essential worker, you should be proud of what you have achieved and you have mine and those of my colleagues’ deep thanks and appreciation.

Until we banish COVID-19 for good, please continue to observe hands, face and space and put your arm forward when called upon to receive your vaccine. We entered this pandemic together, and we will only emerge from it if we continue in that spirit. Thank you everybody and here is to hoping to a better year ahead.