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Twenty-two year old Gibraltarian in front line of Covid-19 crisis in London hospitals

REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Twenty-two year old Gibraltarian physiotherapist Leon Payas was hailed as a “hero” by his family as the young man continued to be at the front line in the UK’s fight against the Covid-19 virus.

Mr Payas, only just having graduated to become a physiotherapist in London, has these past weeks been among the front-line staff of London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust.

Last week, as part of the teams working at Central Middlesex Hospital, he was soon deployed to Northwick Park Hospital when it declared a major incident after being overrun by Covid-19 patients. The young Gibraltarian is now assigned to work within the ICU unit at Northwick Park hospital, which forms part of the NHS Trust he works under.

“Only today he has been recalled just thirty minutes into his half-day off,” his brother, Liam, told the Chronicle as the young man’s efforts in the UK came to the forefront.

Later it was confirmed that the young medic had seen his hours change to working night shifts and weekends as the hospital trust redeployed personnel to handle the present spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The first Gibraltar heard of this young man’s battle against Covid-19 came when his father, Ian Payas, posted on social media how he considered his son a “hero” as he highlighted that Leon was “fighting Covid-19 virus in ICU.”

Working for the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, the young medic is at the forefront in what is one of the worst hit trusts in London.

Just a week ago last Tuesday (March 24), NHS England announced that the Trust had seen a total of 36 deaths since the COVID-19 outbreak began in the UK.

The first 15 deaths occurred at Northwick Park Hospital, which was selected as a coronavirus specialist centre in the area by the Trust.

Since last Tuesday the trust has seen a further eight deaths, forcing it to close its doors to any further visitors at its hospitals due to fears it will not be able to control the spread of the virus.

Leon’s brother, Liam, explained how the 22-year old medic had just finished his degree and started to work last September at Northwick Park and Middlesex Hospitals, rotating between both.

Since learning of his deployment, Leon’s family have been in constant contact with him via FaceTime every evening where they find themselves making sure he is okay whilst at the same time trying to “distract him from all the convo and news about the virus.”

Speaking to the Chronicle, his brother admitted how he was worried for Leon.

“Yes we are slightly worried of course but I understand it’s part of his job to be in that kind of atmosphere / environment and these are things that can happen,” he said.

“It’s in his nature to be extremely caring and compassionate. I really see those values come out in his job by the way he speaks about his profession and the patients in his care.”

“For him, it’s work as normal as his patients still need the support and whatever programme is in place for them, the hospital and its services don’t stop because of the virus. It just adds to the ‘mayhem’.”

Asked what it was like for the family knowing that Leon was at the very frontline of things in the UK as they entered a critical time in the spread of the Covid-19 virus, Liam commented: “I know he is an extremely capable professional who has built up the adequate skills, experience, attitude and work ethic to deal with anything thrown at him.”

“This experience he will gain by working on the front line, side by side with top professionals from different medical fields, will be invaluable to his career and life. His positive and hard working attitude are always evident but more so now.”

“I am always extremely proud of him and the work he does, not just now because of the virus.”

“He could have easily have asked to come back to Gibraltar but instead has not mentioned that once and is fully focused at the task on hand and to help out as much as he can through these critical times.”

Leon is himself unable to comment directly on his role as medical staff have been asked not to speak to the media.

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