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An NHS frontline worker has been left feeling “betrayed” after he was suspended from a hospital over a Facebook post urging COVID deniers to follow lockdown rules.
Gary Oldershaw, 53, an intensive theory unit practitioner spoke out on 4 January after seeing seven patients die during a 12-hour shift at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex.
He wrote a lengthy post in reaction to seeing a friend share coronavirus conspiracy theories.
Oldershaw urged people to listen to medical and government advice and to "stay at home and look after yourselves".
However, an anonymous complaint was made to the hospital about the content of the post, which included explicit language.
The NHS worker said he was informed by the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust on 7 February that he had been suspended for “bringing the trust into disrepute”.
Oldershaw, who came out of semi-retirement to help treat coronavirus patients, said he would never return to the hospital, where he worked for 17 years.
Speaking about the Facebook post, he said he did not mention where he worked but admitted that he did not need to use such "colourful language".
In the post, he wrote: "This is real s***. I have seen fit, young people die in my arms. Stop being a c*** and do what ya asked to do.
"For f*** sake listen to what medics and the government are telling us."
About his suspension, he said: "When I first got suspended I was doubting my own ability, I thought maybe I put a patient in danger or someone died on my watch.
"It worried me for my days that I inadvertently killed someone. When I found out it was Facebook, it was just so ridiculous.
"People are dying every single day and we have been on the frontline trying to save as many lives as we can.
"For the first time in my career I was reduced to tears because we had to watch seven people die in one day, then the next day five people died."
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Oldershaw said he felt “totally betrayed”, adding: "I've put my heart and soul into this job and they've hurt me. I will never return."
He had worked as an operating department practitioner (ODP) at the hospital for 17 years before retiring last summer.
In December, he returned to help out on the frontline to help in the intensive therapy unit just before the second wave of COVID hit, working on the hospital's intensive care unit for the first time.
Around the time, hospitals in Essex declared a “major incident” after they were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
Oldershaw said he didn't learn he was suspended until he began a weekend shift at 8am, and was told by a manager that he had to go home while he was already in his full PPE and ready to work.
After making a phone call, Oldershaw learned that he was suspended after an anonymous person lodged a complaint.
He said: "I was absolutely gutted. I came home totally deflated. I couldn't understand why I was suspended."
He claimed that because they sent the email notifying him of the complaint to an incorrect address, he was never consulted or spoken to before the decision was made.
"This is not what the NHS needs, we're in a pandemic, the hospitals are overwhelmed. We need as many people to help out,” he said.
"They didn't need to take it this far. I think they could have spoken to me and had a chat but instead, I've just been suspended."
A spokesperson for the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said: "As this is an ongoing investigation the Trust are unable to make comment."
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