British-Syrian doctor who came out of retirement to work for NHS dies of coronavirus

British-Syrian doctor who came out of retirement to work for NHS dies of coronavirus
British-Syrian doctor Dr Fayez Ayache has become the latest NHS worker to die of the novel coronavirus disease.
4 min read
09 April, 2020
Dr Fayez Ayache died on Wednesday [Facebook]

The UK is mourning the death of a 76-year-old British-Syrian doctor who died of Covid-19 on Wednesday, having come out of retirement to help in patients suffering from the virus.

Family and colleagues paid tribute to Dr Fayez Ayache, whom they describe as a "diligent, generous and honourable" person who served NHS in Suffolk for more than 40 years.

Dr Ayache was born in Damascus, Syria and moved to the UK in 1973 to work as a doctor. He worked as a general practitioner and then went on to specialise in an ear, nose and throat department (ENT) and later became a senior partner before his retirement.

Dr. Ayache worked at the Constable Country Medical Practice in Suffolk for more than 30 years.

He retired in 2017, but came out of retirement to continue working part-time until it was deemed unsafe for him to do so due to his age.

Layla, his daughter, spoke of the family's devastation saying: "We are obviously devastated, especially with the current restrictions in place as it is difficult to grieve as a family."

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"Dad was the epitome of kindness, he was diligent, generous, honourable, a very peaceful man and he was very dedicated," she added.

"His main passion in life was his family, especially his grand-daughter Paisley, and of course his work – they are what he truly lived for."

His former colleague paid tribute to Ayache, not just for his job as a physician, but also his charity work with Syrian refugees.

"After retiring in 2017 Dr Ayache continued to work in General Practice and also as an ENT specialist at Ipswich Hospital," said Pete Keeble, practice manager at Constable Country Medical Practice, also paying tribute to his former colleague.

"He also played a leading role working with charities to help refugees fleeing from the conflict in his native Syria."

"He will be profoundly missed by staff, patients, friends and colleagues whose lives he touched though a long and very distinguished career. Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time," he added.

'Ill equipped'

Hospital bosses and doctors in March warned of being swamped by a "tsunami" of Covid-19 patients in London, as the UK braces for a peak in cases. The government has faced calls to urgently provide specialist kits and tests for frontline health workers.

Scientists, though, have warned that thousands of new ventilators may arrive in the UK too late, while the government said it failed to join a European scheme to boost capacity due to a communications "mix up".

Read also: Britain's BBC to broadcast Muslim prayers as mosques remain closed over coronavirus

The UK initially adopted a light-touch approach to the outbreak, but has since imposed tougher measures, including a three-week lockdown, as confirmed cases and deaths climbed.

The chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents the heads of hospital trusts in the state-run healthcare service, said there had been an "explosion of demand" in the capital.

Chris Hopson told BBC radio that hospital bosses said there had been "wave after wave after wave" of admissions of seriously ill patients, with a surge in numbers predicted in the coming weeks.

"The word that's often used to me is a sort of continuous tsunami," he added.

Official statistics are thought to represent just a fraction of the real number of infections across the UK, as only those taken to hospital with severe symptoms of Covid-19 are tested.

In a show of appreciation for health staff, the country engages in a collective round of applause at 8pm every Thursday, with social media videos capturing cheers echoing across the nation's cities, towns and villages.

'Lambs to the slaughter'

Frontline healthcare workers say a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as insufficient testing of staff for Covid-19 is putting them and patients at risk.

"If hospitals are to survive this, we urgently need adequate protective clothing. Otherwise we are lambs to the slaughter," one doctor wrote in The Daily Mail newspaper. 

The government says it has shipped 7.5 million pieces of PPE in the last 24 hours but Hopson said "unprecedented" staff absences of up to 50 percent were exacerbating the crisis in London.

The NHS has access to some 8,000 ventilators and the government has ordered 8,000 more. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said they were expected to arrive in the coming weeks and months.

But Imperial College epidemiology Professor Neil Ferguson, a government scientific advisor, has said most would be needed "in approximately two to three weeks" time as demand peaked.

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