Coronavirus: Act now to protect homeless people warns north London doctor

Dr Maria Goddard. Picture: Dr Maia Goddard

Dr Maria Goddard. Picture: Dr Maia Goddard - Credit: Archant

Act to help homeless people during the coronavirus pandemic or “people will be sick on the streets”.

That’s the message from Muswell Hill’s Dr Maria Goddard – who helps lead GP provision at Archway’s Whittington Hospital.

Dr Goddard, who herself is off work, in bed, and self-isolating after developing flu-like symptoms advises the volunteers who run the Muswell Hill Soup Kitchen and told this newspaper what she was concerned about as the public health crisis unfolds.

“In the hospital there’s an awful lot of planning going on. It’s unprecedented in my life time at least,” she said.

“All hospitals are basically gearing up for war with Covid-19. In some ways it’s a very interesting time. This is a war-like response in hospitals. Everything has completely changed inside a week.”

The senior doctor is particularly concerned about the impact of the pandemic on already vulnerable people sleeping on the streets or in precarious accommodation.

She said: “In certain situations obviously homeless people are very very vulnerable. People who attend the soup kitchen are such lovely humans and have taught me much about all sorts of things from opera to engineering.

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“They have only been invalidated by bad luck and social injustice. Covid-19 is likely to serve them up even more injustice.”

She added that unfortunately many people who struggle to find their next meal find it difficult to engage with health services.

She said: “Some struggle to manage themselves and don’t know how to do so. If you are homeless how are you supposed to attend to any health needs or self-isolate?

“Also, they are forced to stay in public places and there’s no provision for them. Some of these people could end up sick in the street, we’ve had cases of people dying in the streets in London recently even without this.”

Dr Goddard added: “It really is something that needs attention from a high level [in government], Not only are these people vulnerable, the could be spreaders quite easily.”

Generally, the GP added it was important to take the goverment isolation advice and to stay home and isolate if they had any concerns about symptoms

And above all, she said: “It’s imperative to help people to engage with the health services.”