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David is lone GP on lockdown Orkney isle

Wednesday 13 May 2020

GP David Mazza (OL82) is spending the lockdown looking after the health of 600 islanders on Westray, the most north-westerly island in the Orkney archipelago.

David is one of three GPs who provide regular medical care on the island. Normally, he spends three weeks at a time there, but, due to Covid-19, he will remain on Westray until the current restrictions have been lifted.

He said: “Perhaps it is a bit easier on a small island however, although it is remote, the problems of dealing with the virus are no different to the rest of the country. People still have to keep their distance from family and friends and that can be difficult.

“This is an amazing community. It is busy and thriving and incredibly sociable, so like everyone else, we are having to find ways to get together. There are virtual coffee mornings taking place and Zoom meetings. Even the church service is now on Zoom.”

The islanders have set up a Covid-19 resilience group which includes the GP surgery, the kirk (church), the island’s care home, its three shops, the postmen, fire and rescue, ambulance and coastguard teams.

“Everyone is pulling together,” said David, “and the posties are amazing. They are taking prescriptions to people around the island and they are also able to keep an eye out for anyone who might need help.”

Total responsibility for the the population’s healthcare is in the hands of David and a nurse, and one of the challenges facing them is that the nearest hospital is a 90-minute ferry ride away.

He said: “Under normal circumstances, we would call on the air ambulance but, at the moment, they are not taking Covid-19 cases, so we would have to rely on an ambulance crew coming out on the ferry. Despite our remoteness, it’s important that we follow government guidelines like everyone else to protect ourselves and that message has got through.”

When David is not on duty in Westray, he is based in York where he works with Primary Care International, an organisation which provides primary care to low and middle income countries. He is working with patients to help them manage chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and asthma.

The work is mainly with African countries and he has spent time in the Sudan as well as working with refugee camps. It is a job that he is passionate about but, for now, his life is on a small Scottish island in the Atlantic.

He said: “These are unbelievable times and, just like the rest of the country, we are waiting to see what happens next.”

David is pictured outside the surgery on Westray.

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