MEDICAL BRETHREN ON THE FRONT LINE
W Bro Col S W Bennett LGR MetAGSwdB interviews a small number of our medics.
As many of you know, we have several Lodges in London which have a number of NHS staff within their ranks.
Furthermore we have many doctors, nurses and hospital administrators who are members of many other lodges. Here is a look at just a few of them.
W Bro Dr Lalit Patel
My masonic background began in 2005 when I was initiated into my mother Lodge Galen which unfortunately folded four years later, at which point I joined Lodge Aesculapius No 2410, being installed as Worshipful Master in 2016.
I continue to be an active member of the Lodge and Aesculapius Chapter. I have been a Dental Surgeon since 1986. For over 30 years I have owned and managed a six- surgery mixed practice in Eastcote, Pinner.
Since mid-April, I have been deployed to work for NHS 111 in the call handling team. I answer calls from patients with dental problems and I make diagnoses. Most need advice, prescriptions, and reassurance, although some require intervention. I triage patients using my dental clinical knowledge and divert them to Acute Urgent Care Centres (AUCC).
I work between midnight to 06:00 and have noticed the volume of calls during these hours, mainly from individuals not registered with a dentist, or occasional attenders, homeless, or nervous patients.
There is a huge demand on the 111 service, due to problems ranging from toothaches to abscesses. On some days, the team handles over 1,500 calls. The scale of dental problems is increasing daily, and the demand currently outweighs the number of AUCC, although more are due to be set up.
The experience can take its toll emotionally as I feel powerless whilst unable to carry out face-to-face dentistry to relieve patients of their pain. Despite this, it is fulfilling to play a small part in helping the NHS during this time, and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.
W Bro Dr Allan Cole
Bro Allan is a consultant anaesthetist who has, for many years, gained significant experience of working in Intensive care.
Now semi-retired, prior to Covid he has been part of the advisory board, as Medical Advisor, setting up the National Rehabilitation Centre project at the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate situated in Nottinghamshire on the same site as the UK’s leading facility for clinical rehabilitation serving the Armed Forces.
The state-of-the-art facility will provide neurological and complex trauma care and a full suite of rehabilitative facilities together on one site, bringing benefits that will make it unique in the world.
However with the start of Covid, he set up a Liaison service for the Leicester university hospitals. Patients with severe respiratory problems resulting from the virus are referred to the hospitals’ ITUs from throughout the UK. A patient’s family is unable to visit and Bro Allan will talk to them on a daily basis giving full updates on the patient’s progress.
This he finds very rewarding and Bro Allan, at the age of 71, feels that a doctor who is a bit more “long in the tooth” is perhaps better placed at doing this because of greater experience.
Raised in Rahere Lodge No 2546 in 1981, and a member of another London Lodge, Chapter and Rose Croix, Bro Allan’s experience in the medical profession as well as in Freemasonry, continues to motivate his drive to help – a drive which could be considered the ethos of Freemasonry.
He does wonder what the world is going to look like as we come out of this pandemic – and what the role of Freemasonry is as we emerge.
He says “it is a wonderful charitable organisation and there is going to be a lot of call on supporting those in need due to employment, health and family problems etc.
“I can’t picture what the world might look like after this and Freemasonry must be very alert to this. We must be flexible and adaptable and make sure that we apply our Freemasonry in the most effective way.”
W Bro Dr Phil Jones
Bro Phil is a consultant anaesthetist and intensivist at Barts Hospital, primarily working on cardiac surgical procedures but also thoracic surgery, providing support to cardiologists, and supporting patients in intensive care.
Initiated into Castle Lodge of Harmony No 26, Bro Phil has also joined Rahere Lodge No 2546, and Blundell’s Lodge No 5467, the latter of which he is currently the Worshipful Master.
Entire floors of Barts were turned into Covid-19 wards, receiving patients from other hospitals within the Barts Health NHS Trust, and a huge number of theatre staff, intensive care staff and anaesthetic staff, including consultants and trainees, were re-deployed to work those new Covid wards.
This has meant that Bro Phil and his teams have had their capacity for how many surgeries they can perform significantly reduced. Additional strain comes from the fact that Barts was designated as the emergency surgery hospital for all of the eastern half of London, to allow those other hospitals to focus on Covid patients.
However, with the urgency of some of those surgeries, the team has not always had time to test patients for the virus, so are operating under cumbersome personal protective equipment which further constrains their capacity.
Thankfully, Barts has had fewer Covid patients of late, allowing redeployed staff to return, though the need for PPE remains.
Bro Phil has been particularly proud of the response of London Freemasons, and the Craft generally across the country, to the Covid crisis, saying that “the Principles by which we try to live our lives have never been more important than they are now”, and has been grateful to have seen those Principles put into action by Freemasons.
Bro Dr Levansri Makalanda
Known as Levan, Dr Makalanda is the lead consultant for interventional neuroradiology at Barts Health NHS Trust – the largest in the UK.
Aged 44 with very young children, Levan works in the interventional radiology and gamma knife departments at Barts where he met W Bro Ian Sabin who introduced him to Freemasonry.
Levan was Initiated into Rahere Lodge and Raised in 2017. He was then introduced into the Holy Royal Arch being Exalted into St. George’s Chapter in 2018.
Levan’s particular areas of interest are the treatment of complex aneurysms, arteriovenous malformations and acute strokes. Since COVID, Levan has had to change his pattern of work. Usually, there would be two neuroradiologists on duty, one for elective procedures and one for emergency work.
All elective surgery has been cancelled, Intensive Care capacity has been increased, but it is now full with COVID patients. Levan and his two other colleagues work one week on duty at Barts and then self- isolate at home for two weeks in case they have contracted COVID.
With just three neuroradiologists covering this area, the intensity is enormous; having to treat patients and then deal with referrals when not operating.
Each change of patient requires a complete change of PPE; it is typical for a hospital to use 8 to 10 thousand items of PPE per day.
At the top of his career, Levan says his role is incredibly rewarding, but it’s a long week of sometimes up to 80 hours, and just sometimes he thinks of his school friends who made other career choices and are now retired!
This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 41 July 2020 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.
Read more articles in the Arena Issue 41 here.