The New Zealand nurse who was publicly thanked by Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has talked about the struggle to provide the best care in an impossible situation as coronavirus rips through London.
Jenny McGee, from Invercargill, known globally as "Jenny from New Zealand" opened up to 1 NEWS’ Europe Correspondent Daniel Faitaua about intensive care units stretched by a shortage of knowledge and experience as hospitals are at the most critical status in living memory.
"We’re coming back to the same issue of not having enough intensive care trained nurses and doctors, and whilst we have lots of people being redeployed to us, which is amazing and we couldn’t do without them, the responsibility for all these patients lies on intensive care trained staff," she said.
"So we’re just stretching and stretching and stretching and taking on more and more work load day by day and that is tough, it’s an overwhelming amount of responsibility."
The number of Covid-19 cases admitted to hospitals is now far greater than the first wave, as medical staff are treating 32,000 patients - 70 per cent more.
"The majority of people are kind of 60 years onwards but we are seeing young people come in, people with no medical history who for whatever reason have succumbed to this virus. No one is immune."
It comes as Johnson admitted to a select committee in Parliament that care wards in hospitals could be unable to cope if virus infections continued to rise.
The UK death toll has surpassed 84,000 after a further 1,564 fatalities have been recorded. It's the biggest figure reported in a single day since the pandemic began.
"All I can say is that the risk is very substantial and we have to keep the pressure off the NHS and the only way to do that is to follow the current lockdown," he said.
In April 2020, Johnson was admitted to ICU after he was struck down with Covid-19. He paid tribute to the staff at St Thomas’ Hospital and publicly singled out two nurses including Jenny from Invercargill who stood by his bedside as his life hung in the balance.
One year on and a new highly infectious variant is now McGee’s deepest concern.
"My worst fear is patient safety being comprised. We can only do our best and we’re doing an amazing job and, but my fear is that we get to a point where we just can’t do everything and patients suffer as a result.
"The other fear is the effect this is taking on nurses and anyone who is in the intensive care environment, where it will be doctors, nurses, intensive care staff, there is only so long we can do this for."
Nurse Jenny joins millions for jab
The number of people in the UK who have received the first dose of a vaccine is about 2.64 million.
Nurse Jenny confirmed to 1 NEWS she received the first Pfizer vaccine before Christmas and got her second shot yesterday. She even filmed the moment and said she watched emotions come to the surface.
"Relief. A lot of nurses have been really emotional having it and literally cried as they’ve been given the jab but for me it’s relief, relief that an added layer of protection for me at work."
A message for New Zealanders
McGee also admitted she found Christmas tough because she missed New Zealand, especially her family and friends.
She told 1 NEWS she looks at social media and sees Kiwis having the most wonderful summer, but she had a message for everyone back home.
"Don’t become complacent. I have had a lot friends messaging me saying, we don’t understand what it’s like .. and you don’t.
"You have winter ahead of you. There is a highly infectious strain which is floating around, please if you want things to stay as good as it is New Zealand right now, people need to go and get their vaccine, it’s the only way forward."
Watch Nurse Jenny's full story on 1 NEWS at 6pm tonight and tomorrow.