There’s still some good in the world

Monday 1 September 2014

On Tuesday morning this week we drove past our local hospital, the Royal Free in London.

The place was surrounded by TV news crews. It’s not normally like that at the Royal Free, which isn’t a private hospital – the kind of place where you often see paparazzi and camera crews waiting to get a snap of some ailing celeb.

For local people, the Free is an indispensable NHS resource – in my family alone the A&E unit has treated my daughter for food poisoning, my son after he dropped a TV set on his foot, and my husband when he feared the flashing lights he was experiencing might indicate a detaching retina.

My daughter also had her appendix taken out there when she was 11. Uri Geller was visiting a patient on the same ward and entertained Chloe and the nurses to a spectacular display of spoon-bending.

I feel very affectionate towards the place. But the reason the hospital is getting so much unusual media attention is the presence of a new patient, William Pooley, the 29-year-old British nurse struck down by the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone where he was working as a volunteer, saving lives in a desperately understaffed local hospital.

This selfless and dedicated young man had risked his own life by working in appalling conditions for 18 hours a day and, almost inevitably, became infected himself. Will was flown back to Britain by the RAF to be treated in a state-of-the-art isolation ward at the Royal Free.

What I cannot understand are the carpers, those who ask why he, as a British citizen, was “singled out” for “special treatment” in the UK, while hundreds of Africans are “left to die” in the primitive conditions at hospitals in the centre of the outbreak.

One woman, visiting a friend at the Royal Free, said: “I think they are taking a real risk in bringing him here that it could spread to the UK, why couldn’t they treat him where he was?

“They might save him but I’m worried he’ll kill more people by infecting them, and our health service can do without that to deal with.”

Actually, I am incredibly proud of William Pooley, the RAF and the Royal Free.

I am glad we look after our own when they get seriously ill abroad because of their courage in volunteering to help save others from a deadly infection.

Will has done a marvellous thing out in Africa. Our NHS has done the right thing in treating him. I pray for his recovery and I know this is a feel-good story for the NHS at a time when we sorely need one.

Read Richard and Judy's column in full here.
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