Porters at Epsom Hospital have expressed their concerns over the handling of deceased bodies they are tasked with during the coronavirus outbreak.

GMB union said porters at the hospital they represent were left “traumatised” by the work, asserting they were not given body bags or adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Epsom Hospital however said they closely follow Public Health England (PHE) advice and refuted accusations that there was a lack of body bags at the hospital.

On Monday (April 6), GMB released a statement expressing the porters’ concerns.

“Porters are inundated with bodies, which are now wrapped in sheets...

“The porters…are left with just a flimsy plastic apron, disposable gloves and a flimsy mask as they rush around the hospital doing the difficult and highly distressing work of moving increasing numbers of deceased patients. The scenes they are witnessing on a daily basis leave them ‘distressed and anxious’. They are increasingly concerned about contracting the virus themselves.”

Responding to a request from the Comet, Epsom Hospital said they were following PHE guidance on the handling of the deceased bodies during the pandemic and provision of PPE.

A spokesperson for the hospital said:

“The safety of our patients and staff remains our top priority, which is why we follow expert national guidance from Public Health England.”

“We can confirm that we do not have a shortage of body bags and we have room in our mortuaries to support deceased patients.

“We continue to follow PHE guidance on providing protective equipment and make this available to our staff. We have stocks available to support our porters and other staff and will continue to work with all of our staff to ensure they feel safe as they care for our patients,” the spokesperson added.

The PHE guidance, which is available on the government’s website, points out that Covid-19 coronavirus “will rapidly degrade when not sustained by living tissue” and “as a result, there is no requirement for body bags, but there may be other practical reasons for their use.”

The official guidance adds that covering the mouth of the deceased person can stop release of aerosols that might be infectious until the virus degrades completely.

GMB nonetheless expressed concern for the wellbeing of their porters currently working at Epsom Hospital.

Regional Organizer Helen O’Connor said the union were calling on Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust to “take urgent measures” to protect the health and wellbeing of porters and other key workers they represent during the pandemic:

“We are extremely concerned about the psychological and physical wellbeing of our hospital members who are traumatised and struggling to cope with the impact of this pandemic.

“They are on the frontline doing the type of work that would distress anyone and increasingly dealing with death,” she said.