'Anxiety' in Oxford Filipino community over coronavirus

By Michael Race
BBC News

  • Published
Meals being servedImage source, FilComOxford
Image caption,
Local businesses have supplied the meals for NHS staff after donations were made by the public

The Filipino community in Oxfordshire has felt "heightened anxiety" amid the coronavirus pandemic after two hospital porters died, a senior nurse has said.

Ariel Lanada, who founded a community group in 2002, said up to 50 members had been in quarantine due to Covid-19.

He said dealing with the deaths of porters Elbert Rico and Oscar King Jr had been "extremely difficult".

Their deaths prompted concerns the virus was having a "disproportionate" impact on BAME people in the city.

Mr Rico and Mr King Jr, described as "popular and hard-working men" who both worked at the John Radcliffe Hospital, died in April.

Of about 3,000 Filipinos living and working in Oxfordshire, approximately 500 work at Oxford University's Hospital's Trust, with the majority of them nurses.

Mr Lanada has been training colleagues to safely wear personal protective equipment at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

He said the pandemic had been extremely stressful but the Filipino community had "drawn strength from each other".

Image source, Central Echo
Image caption,
Oscar King Jr and Elbert Rico were "popular and hard-working men", the John Radcliffe Hospital said

Mr Lanada, chairman of the Filipino Community of Oxfordshire, said members had organised hot meals for frontline NHS staff in the city with donations from local Filipino businesses and the wider community.

"We are appealing for more donations for us to continue to distribute free hot meals. It's extremely stressful, the majority of us are front liners," he said.

"We are fighting this war and you cannot see your enemy. I am very touched by the generosity of the public."

For families required to self-isolate, community members have delivered groceries, virtual meetings have been held online and financial support has been given in some cases.

Image source, FilComOxford
Image caption,
Ariel Lanada, who has worked as a nurse in Oxford for 18 years, said he was "touched and moved by the generosity" of the public through donations for NHS meals

Two Go Fund Me pages set up for the families of Mr Rico and Mr King Jr have raised more than £40,000.

Arnold Barrientos, a nurse who contracted Covid-19 himself, said the community was "so close with each other".

The pastor of Jesus Is Lord Church Oxford said not being able to visit members of the community in hospital to pray for them was "the hardest part in a way".

"It's really a family and it's why it (the deaths) have hit us really badly," he said.

The deaths of 23 Filipino healthcare workers, about 13% of all frontline deaths, prompted the Philippines' ambassador to the UK Antonio Lagdameo to call for key workers to be "properly protected".

The NHS has introduced risk assessments for all BAME staff in the wake of the concerns.

Image source, FilComOxford
Image caption,
FilCom Oxfordshire chairman Ariel Lanada (right) and otherers have been delivering free meals for NHS staff across the county's hospitals

Mr Lanada said some colleagues had been deployed to other roles in hospitals to avoid being in direct contact with Covid-19 treatment wards.

Terry Roberts, chief people officer at Oxford University Hospitals said the trust was "proud and grateful to our Filipino staff for the enormous contribution they make to the life of our hospitals and the care of our patients".

He said line managers had been "instructed" to have run risk assessments and chat to BAME staff "in order for us to take appropriate action to protect our staff".

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