Coronavirus: Anger over lack of PPE for nurse Gareth Roberts

By Nelli Bird
BBC News

  • Published
Media caption,
Gareth Roberts died in hospital in the early hours of Saturday

A nurse who died after contracting coronavirus "paid the ultimate price" due to a lack of personal protective equipment, a friend has claimed.

Gareth Roberts, 65, worked as a nurse across the Cardiff and Vale health board area for more than 40 years.

The husband, father and grandfather died in hospital in Merthyr Tydfil in the early hours of Saturday morning.

His friend said he had little to no protection from the virus which the health board said it would investigate.

"He didn't have PPE. In the beginning he said he didn't have anything," his childhood friend Janette Leonard said.

"He had a paper mask, plastic gloves and a pinny, that's alright if you are making sandwiches but not when you are going to nurse people with the disease."

Image source, Family picture
Image caption,
Mr Roberts' wife Linda was told to attend his bedside in the early hours of Saturday when it became clear he would pass away

Mr Roberts had devoted his life to caring for people, working as a nurse since the 1980s and coming out of retirement in January 2015.

Over the last few weeks, as concerns about the virus escalated, he had been working extra shifts to help cover the wards at Llandough Hospital near Penarth.

But he became ill himself with Covid-19, and gradually his condition deteriorated.

At the weekend, his family were called to his bedside at Prince Charles Hospital, and Ms Leonard said his wife was with him when he passed away.

"For Gareth, he paid the ultimate price," said Ms Leonard.

"We're angry. Why would you send a soldier on to the front line without combat gear? It's unthinkable."

Image caption,
Jeanette Leonard, a friend of Mr Roberts since childhood, says his sense of humour would "make you weak"

Mr Roberts loved his job but he was also a husband to Linda, a father to Ceri and Dean and a grandfather to 16-year-old Zac, who he and Linda had brought up after their son Dean passed away 11 years ago.

Ms Leonard said his sense of humour was so dry, and "you couldn't not love him".

"He'd come out with things and you'd be weak," she said.

"Cariad [Welsh for love] was his favourite word. The nursing sister in the ward was saying to me she'll miss him saying 'come on cariad, we can do this together'.

"That's how he was - a proper genuine, lovely guy."

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB) has paid tribute to Mr Roberts and said it would investigate the claims over a lack of PPE.

Image source, Family picture
Image caption,
Gareth Roberts devoted 40 years of his life to caring for people as a nurse

Ruth Walker, the health board's executive nurse director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: "We are aware of the concerns raised by some staff in the media regarding the availability and or inaccessibility of PPE.

"As a result of the inferences made we are taking a more detailed look into the availability of PPE at UHL and we regularly check our systems to ensure that we get stock to the right place at the right time.

"As a health board, we have enough PPE equipment available and in stock, providing the right level of PPE is used in the right circumstances to meet the national guidance as well as the high standards we have set ourselves.

"If a colleague has not found this to be the case and they have encountered either a shortage or a perceived shortage we would encourage them to raise it immediately."

The Welsh Government said it was working hard to make sure all front-line NHS and social care staff had the protection and support they needed to undertake their roles

"So far, we've distributed more than 10.4 million items of PPE from our pandemic stocks, over and above our usual supply," a spokesman said.

Ms Leonard has now set up a fundraising page to help Mr Roberts' family with funeral costs, which raised £2,700 in less than a day.