Nurse who wasn’t admitted to hospital died ‘gasping for air’ but family told his body won’t be tested for coronavirus

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A nurse who died after treating a coronavirus (COVID-19) patient won’t be tested for the disease, his son has claimed. Thomas Harvey, 57, collapsed in the bathroom and died “gasping for air” at his family home in east London on 29 March.

His son, also Thomas, claimed on 3 April that his father still hasn’t been tested for coronavirus despite showing symptoms before he died. He said his father had only been given “gloves and a flimsy apron” to protect himself from infection at work. And had isolated himself at home after beginning to show symptoms of the virus a few weeks ago. The father of seven had spent 20 years as a nurse at Goodmayes Hospital in Ilford.

“I specifically remember them saying he would be tested”

Harvey, 24, told the PA news agency:

Considering the circumstances of how he died and him being NHS staff, we thought he would have been taken in for a test straightaway.

We want one [a test] just to solidify what we have been saying all along, not just for us, but for his workplace as well. We are convinced he had it.

Harvey said that when his father’s body was collected from the property, he was told a coronavirus test would be carried out. However, when he called the mortuary on 2 April, a member of staff said she’d been told not to test his father.

Harvey was asked to contact the coroner’s office, who told him on 3 April that a case worker would be in touch. He said:

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It was news to us that they were not going to test him…

When they came originally [to collect his body] I specifically remember them saying he would be tested.

CoronavirusThomas Harvey with his wife Marcia at the graduation of Thomas Harvey Junior (Family handout/PA)
Not admitted to hospital

Recalling his father’s death, Harvey said he had to punch a hole in the bathroom door as he and other family members made desperate attempts to get to his father.

About a week before, the paramedics were called out when his condition worsened. But he wasn’t admitted to hospital or tested for the virus. His family was surprised by this decision. Harvey said:

At that point he wasn’t eating for eight days, he wasn’t breathing properly, which you could hear. He was very weak and was complaining about pains but they had told us that his case was mild so he wouldn’t be taken into hospital for treatment.

We were like, ‘If that’s a mild case, then what’s the worst case?’

An ambulance was called to the house on 28 March, but despite attempts to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead. NHS England and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust have been contacted for comment.

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