A doctor-turned-MSP has told how he did not hug his baby daughter, who was born during lockdown, for eight weeks because he feared passing coronavirus on to her.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane used his maiden speech in the Scottish Parliament to tell how coronavirus has impacted the NHS, accusing the Scottish Government of sending out “PPE that put my life at risk”.
The new Conservative MSP for Glasgow promised he would stand up for “real change” and “real help for real people”, as he spoke about his experiences during the pandemic.
He told MSPs how his parents had emigrated from India to the UK and how, after qualifying as a junior doctor in 2006, his career saw him move from city to city.
Dr Gulhane, who has worked in A&E departments and as GP, said it was in Glasgow that he “found a home, a community, a family”.
He said: “I am a frontline doctor having worked in accident and emergency, out-of-hours and seeing patients in general practice. As the pandemic struck I did what thousands of other Scottish healthcare workers did – I kept seeing my patients.
“The brightest lights shine only in the darkest skies and during the pandemic I have seen the bravery and humanity of my colleagues shine very bright indeed.
“But I had low points too. When my lockdown baby was born I stayed away because of the fear of passing Covid to her. I did not hug her for eight weeks. My newborn baby. But I kept seeing my patients.
“I kept my distance from my seven-year-old son because of the fear of passing Covid to him, and one day he asked my wife why I didn’t love him any more, had he done something wrong. But like my nursing colleagues, I kept seeing my patients.
“The Scottish Government sent me out PPE that put my life at risk. But like hospital physios, porters and occupational therapists, I kept seeing my patients.”
Dr Gulhane said he had run for election to Holyrood when he realised he could “no longer say nothing”.
He added: “I stood for election to voice the pain of my patients, to voice the burnout of my colleagues, to voice everyone’s desperate wish for us to work together.”
He said he had come to Parliament to “represent the Scottish NHS, my patients, my colleagues, to make them feel like they truly have a voice”.
Dr Gulhane said he wants to “give voice to some of the most urgent issues facing our health service”, telling ministers there are “issues that need to be dealt with today, it is imperative to the future health of our nation”.
He insisted: “It is about rebuilding and recovering, recovering from staff burnout, rebuilding strategies to deal with burgeoning waiting lists, and helping those directly affected by Covid.”
In the closing speech of the debate, new Health Secretary Humza Yousaf praised Dr Gulhane and said: “He and I were political opponents in Glasgow Pollok, I was impressed with him then and I’m even more impressed with him now.
“I thought he spoke very emotionally, very powerfully, about his own role in the NHS – for which I thank him – throughout the pandemic, but also extremely emotively about the challenges he faced as a father in the NHS and that really struck a chord with me.”
Mr Yousaf added: “I cannot imagine not hugging my newborn daughter for eight weeks, so I really do commend you for the sacrifices that you’ve made, but also for the fact that in your opening speech, you have said that you will be a champion for the NHS and I look forward to working cross-party with Dr Gulhane.”