People have also begun complaining about long wait times.
“There is some disbelief that you’ve had six months to prepare for this and why haven’t you been training more nurses,” said Dr. Tamás Szakmany, an intensive care doctor in Newport, Wales. But, he said, “it’s not just like you’ve got a car factory and you suddenly need more transmissions, so you train the factory workers to build more transmissions. It’s just not that simple.”
Among doctors and nurses, a sense of battle fatigue has set in. Extra weekend shifts that were intended to be temporary have lasted through the summer, especially in northern cities where coronavirus wards remained busy even as a national lockdown was lifted in the summer. Health workers are calling in sick, many of them with anxiety and depression.
Rapid testing remains scarce for doctors and nurses. And health workers on coronavirus wards are supplied only with basic surgical masks, not the heavier-duty N-95 masks reserved for intensive care units.
“The first time around, it’s almost like a once-in-a-lifetime kind of medical challenge,” said Paul Whitaker, a respiratory doctor in Bradford, in northern England, where the number of coronavirus patients has returned to its early May peak.
“The hospital provided packed lunches for us all,” Dr. Whitaker added. “People were sending good luck messages. But the prospect of going into another six months, which is almost certainly what it’s going to be, is relatively frightening. How are you going to maintain the morale, the focus and the energy of all these people?”
In the ex-mining and manufacturing towns in England’s north that have been hit hardest by the latest surge of infections, doctors are especially harried. Nearly 40 percent of critically ill patients are now classified as the country’s most deprived, compared to a quarter of such patients in the spring and early summer.