A Hywel Dda Consultant Radiologist voices how COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of creating a community for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff.
Hashim Samir, Iraqi-born, who has worked at Glangwili Hospital for 10 years, expresses that the health board should see diversity as a strength, post pandemic.
“It was a scary time for people from ethnic minorities seeing doctors and nurses from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds work throughout the pandemic.
“They were unfortunately losing their lives for the sake of protecting the public and taking care of their patients.”
Hashim acts as the Vice-Chair for the health board’s advisory group for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, started by the Chair, Maria Battle.
“We have created a network for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff to engage with them and see, how we can support them.
“These people are sacrificing their lives and the time with their families to serve the public. We need really to create a sense of belonging.”
41% of the doctors at Hywel Dda University Health Board are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
This includes 38% of consultants, and 59% (almost two thirds) of our speciality doctors and medical grade doctors being from ethnic backgrounds.
“We are trying really to bridge that gap, it did exist before, and probably before the pandemic no-one paid much attention to that.
“Again, because of the pandemic, people can realise that people are really putting their lives forward. The appreciation really goes beyond clapping.
“It goes to more, to feeling that they are part of the larger population, the big Welsh family.”
Hashim’s special interest pre pandemic, included interventional radiology. This includes biopsies or draining kidneys and gall bladders of patients not fit for surgery.
“There was a period of pause at the beginning of the pandemic, nobody knew what was going to happen for cancer patients.
“My mum passed away from breast cancer and what keeps stinging is that her diagnosis was delayed because of the situation back home in Iraq.
“So, it was a personal decision when lockdown was announced. We contacted every cancer service and said that we are just carrying on like normal.”
Hashim and his team, who are made up of three nurses and one assistant, have cared for over 200 patients over the past year.
“It wasn’t easy. Especially when there was talk of the vaccine being unsafe. I remember my children asking me not to have the vaccine.
“They asked: “Daddy are you sure it is safe?”, I told them, at the end of the day I decided to become a doctor.
“There is a huge risk when dealing with patients, the only thing is to be sensible and just go for it.”
Hashim’s message to colleagues says: “I truly believe that as human beings we do our best when we have a sense of belonging.
“We need to help our ethnic minority staff feel part of this wonderful community. I don’t like seeing people, British citizens, feeling like foreigners.
“We are not foreigners. We are just part of this large community and together we can achieve wonderful things.”
Listen to Hashim’s full podcast here, it is also available on Spotify.