Around the world, nurses have become the vanguard in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic — continuing the profession’s long tradition of carrying nations through a crisis. Now the UK’s newest COVID-19 community hospital in Surrey will be honouring one of the Caribbean’s most famous Jamaican Nurse, Jamaican-born Mary Seacole.

The new temporary emergency centre is the first instalment in a series of Seacole memorial COVID-19 services aimed at rehabilitating patients. The former manager of the NHS, Patrick Vernon, has been at the forefront of the campaign for the recognition of Seacole.

“It’s not just her legacy, it’s our legacy,” said Vernon about the significance of the campaign. “It’s the ethnic minority and black historical experience. It’s about acknowledging our contributions to Britain.”

Yvonne Coghill, the diversity lead nurse of NHS England, supported the campaign for naming the temporary COVID-19 recovery centers after Ms. Seacole. All the overflow critical care hospitals that have so far been opened in England have been named after fellow nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale, a contemporary of Ms. Seacole. Both women put their lives on the line to treat the injured soldiers of the Crimean War.

England’s chief nursing officer, Ruth May, and health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, virtually opened the hospital on May 4. It was named the NHS Seacole Center and is part of the UK’s next stage of COVID-19 response. It houses about 300 inpatient beds for COVID-19 recovering patients, as well as people in need of routine treatment.

“Mary Seacole made an extraordinary, long-term contribution to community healthcare and so it is fitting that such an important service is honoring her name,” noted May.

NHS chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens also applauded the decision, saying it pays a well-deserved tribute to BME healthcare workers who are currently at the forefront of the COVID-19 response. “It also serves as a timely reminder that it is their contribution over the past seven decades that has been a foundation for the very success and continuation of the NHS,” he said.


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