A soldier who has served in Afghanistan has told how his deployment to a Northern Ireland hospital during the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the most rewarding of his Army career.
Corporal Lewis Maxwell from the 1 Medical Regiment was one of several medics now returning home after they were sent to the Ulster Hospital to relieve pressure on frontline staff.
Half of the medics sent to the hospital were under the age of 21.
Cpl Maxwell said the pressures experienced in Northern Ireland hospitals were more acute than what he had experienced in the rest of the UK.
“We don’t see a lot of it back in the mainland,” he said.
“My main focus was to get integrated as soon as possible to relieve that pressure and then it benefited from the patient care that was able to be delivered due to the pressures being relieved.
“They (hospital staff) are sad to see us leave. I am actually sad to go home, it is probably one of the most satisfying deployments I have done in 15 years of being in the Army; that is including tours to Afghanistan.
“We are treating our own people here so it has been really rewarding.”
Cpl Maxwell said the best part of the deployment had been the interaction with patients.
“They have been given the time to be treated and spoken to as human beings, not just as patients, so they have been able to express their feelings and get better follow-up care from actually knowing the personal circumstances as to why they are coming.”
He said the deployment had been challenging for some of the younger Army medics sent to Northern Ireland but efforts were made to give them ways to release the pressure.
“There were a lot of younger medics who came over so it was quite challenging for them, the things that they see and what they face.
“So we have social gatherings, pizza nights to make sure that the mental health of everyone who is out here is looked after.”
Private Benjamin Brown has just completed his second deployment to Northern Ireland.
He said: “I was here in February working in Belfast City in the ICU and then I have come here this time. It has been really rewarding coming over here but we have faced challenges as well, adapting to working within the hospital here.
“At times it does get really really busy. You can see the stress that it puts on the nurses.
“But us coming over here just allows us to give a bit more time to the patients and talk to them.
“For that, a lot of them have been very very grateful.”