A Newry Mourne and Down Councillor who has been working on the frontline as a Nursing Auxiliary has welcomed the news that the first COVID-19 vaccination has been administered today.
Rowallane DUP Councillor Kathryn Owen returned to the front line in the health service at the beginning of April to lend her support to the staff who were under pressure.
Kathryn had already taken time off nursing to focus on her PhD studies and political career writes Laura Barr.
Kathryn was employed as an agency auxiliary nurse while completing her undergraduate degree and said she had no hesitation in stepping up to the mark and doing her bit to help throughout the pandemic.
Working within one of the South Eastern HSC Trust hospitals, Kathryn has been faced with many challenges since April and experienced the situation first hand from a perspective that will certainly aid her going forward as a political representative.
The married mother-of-two told Down News that within her own hospital ward where she has been based there have been challenges, but thankfully not the pressure which the respiratory wards faced.
“The pressures faced within the NHS really depend on what department you have been working in,” Kathryn explained.
“Fortunately, in one sense, we had the same number of patients where I have been based, coming through our doors as we normally would.
“So, it was quite challenging trying to get these patients rehabilitated as quickly as possible in order to free up beds.
“It was certainly tough from that perspective and unfortunately we don’t have the resources to do the tests in order to free up the beds as quickly as we would like.”
Kathryn was able to take a break during the first and second surges but immediately returned to her post when the figures of positive cases confirmed during the second surge were twice as high as the first.
She added that working as a healthcare worker during the pandemic has given her a true insight into how the NI Executive’s decisions throughout this testing time has affected many different groups of people.
“There has been great hope amongst my colleagues that the Executive will make the right decisions and bear in mind the positions those decisions will put everyone in.
“I suppose for me, I am quite different in this respect as I am looking at all of these decisions from a health perspective and not just on a political level.
“After every health policy decision that gets made, myself and healthcare colleagues have been wondering well just how is this going to impact on our role and on our patients?”
Kathryn is about to embark on a new role within the NHS and will be helping with the roll-out of the vaccinations within the South Eastern HSC Trust area.
“I hope there will be enough uptake,” she said, “and that has got to be the real key thing in fighting COVID-19.”.
“My educational background is in Human Biology, so I have carried out extensive research and study into vaccines through my undergraduate degree.
“I understand the complex science behind vaccines and for those who are not in the field of science there is a lot of misinformation out there at the moment.
“All I would suggest to people is to arm themselves with factual information and not disinformation they are reading straight off social media.”
Kathryn added: “I am also asking people to be sensible over the Christmas holidays as there has still got to be an important element of common sense or ultimately we will end up in another lockdown come January”.
The Councillor will be continuing her role with the NHS into the new year and will assist with the role out of vaccines at weekends.
And Kathryn will be continuing to study her PhD on Cardiology and trying to find an alternative way to diagnose coronary artery disease. She said her doctorate is now in the final stages of completion.