Black nurses battle twin pandemics of racism and coronavirus
London (CNN)Nurse Efe Obiakor stood at the front of the crowd, looking up proudly as her 18-year-old daughter Ada took center stage at a Black Lives Matter rally in central London.
“Let’s use this opportunity to have a community heal,” Ada told protesters as they poured into a sunny Hyde Park.
Obiakor was there to support her daughter, the lead organizer behind the June 20 anti-racism demonstration, but also to advocate for herself.
“As a Black nurse, it’s very important for me to come out today because in the system where I work, and in the NHS as a whole, there is racism,” Obiakor explained.
Nurse Efe Obiakor says she has long faced discrimination and harassment.
A practice nurse with 12 years’ experience, Obiakor, says she has long faced discrimination and harassment in the public health care system, known as the National Health Service (NHS).
And she’s not alone.
Interviewed a dozen Black nurses across the healthcare sector. From students to medics with decades of experience, they work in different roles and different settings — hospitals, care homes and clinics — up and down the country.
They all say they have experienced racism in the workplace — and that it has gotten worse amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The pressures of the pandemic have exacerbated existing racial inequalities, leaving Black nurses vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.
They say they have been pressured to treat Covid-19 patients without proper personal protective equipment (PPE), to work in the highest-risk areas with larger caseloads, and left too scared to speak out, for fear of reprisals.
Their testimony highlights what they say is a pattern of systemic racism in one of the world’s most highly regarded public health care systems.
In response to these 12 testimonies of racism, “Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on stark health inequalities in our country.”
The statement added, “Every organization is expected to prioritize and carry out risk assessments for their BAME [Black, Asian, and minority ethnic] staff and other vulnerable groups as a matter of urgency, but in addition do everything possible to eliminate discrimination, and ensure the right processes are in place to address it swiftly and effectively.” The organization did not respond to allegations .