Highly respected London GP dies from COVID-19

London GP Dr Augustine Obaro died from COVID-19 on New Year's Day, becoming the 15th GP lost to the pandemic.

Dr Augustine Obaro
Dr Augustine Obaro

Dr Obaro, who worked at Addison Road Medical Practice in Walthamstow, London for the last 17 years, died on 1 January after a short battle with coronavirus, his practice confirmed.

Dr Obaro, 63, moved to the UK from Nigeria in 1999 to start GP training and went on to play a major role in his community - supporting fellow African doctors in the UK and serving as part of the Waltham Forest GP Federation.

The latest GP death during the pandemic follows repeated BMA calls for the government to prioritise vaccination of frontline staff against COVID-19. Dr Obaro is the thirteenth GP from a black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) background to die from coronavirus.

Patient tributes

Dr Obaro played a key role in out-of-hours GP services, was active in his local community and continued his professional development by completing a postgraduate diploma in diabetes with the University of Leicester in 2015.

He was completing further postgraduate education to become a trainer in general practice before his death. Patients have paid tribute to Dr Obaro on Twitter, with one highlighting the good care they had been given by him.

One said: 'Have just heard. This is horrendous. He was wonderful with my youngest when she was very ill - am heartbroken for his family. He was a great doctor and I believe him to have been a great man… R.I.P.’

Another wrote simply: ‘Our GP just died of Covid. So close to having the vaccine. Really sad.’

Healthcare worker deaths

In a statement Waltham Forest chair Dr Ken Aswani and Walthamstow LMC chair Dr Gabby Ivbijaro said: ‘Dr Obaro was very well liked by fellow staff and patients. This is a tragic loss of a highly respected frontline health worker in Walthamstow, who is fondly remembered by the CCG, LMC and local GP organisations.

‘Dr Obaro also carried out a significant amount of charitable work, returning to Nigeria with his wife every year to spend time doing voluntary work to improve local healthcare provision in his native village. He was very involved with his community there and also supported fellow African doctors in the UK. His generosity and benign leadership qualities led to him being given the nickname "King" from a young age.’

They added: ‘Dr Augustine Obaro will be sadly missed by patients and staff at Addison Road Medical Practice, colleagues, acquaintances and family throughout the UK, Africa and America and especially by his loving wife Elizabeth and sons Raphael, Charles, Osebi and Christopher.’

BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul recently called for frontline healthcare staff to be vaccinated ‘as soon as possible’ - alerting the government to reports from doctors that vaccines were being done on ‘a sporadic and ad hoc basis’, and ‘without prioritisation’.

Staff shortages

He said: ‘If healthcare workers fall ill from being infected and are unable to work it will be devastating for the health service at this time of critical pressure and will compound the problems hospitals and GP practices are already struggling with regarding staff shortages. There is also a very real risk of this impeding the roll-out of the vaccine itself which is reliant on delivery by healthcare staff.’

Over a dozen GPs from BAME communities have now died from COVID-19. The British International Doctors Association and the RCGP have previously asked the government to clarify the omission of BAME communities from the COVID-19 vaccine priority list.

A tribute to the GPs who have died from COVID-19 can be found here.

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