NEWLY elected Coventry MP Taiwo Owatemi has set up a ‘community mobilisation’ database to provide voluntary manpower during the coronavirus pandemic.
The plan comes as Ms Owatemi said she is in discussions with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW) to return to her former occupation as a specialist pharmacist through the grip of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Health bosses are recalling many people with medical expertise to help in hospitals, and the MP for Coventry North-West said she may now swap parliament for pharmacy as the House of Commons goes into recess.
Her time spent on constituency work will continue as normal, she added.
Speaking exclusively to the Observer, Ms Owatemi said: “We’re working hard with case work, our office is still open, but those who walk in will be told they can reach us remotely.
“We haven’t stopped working but we are finding different ways to help. trying to find the balance without putting anyone at extra risk.
“In parliament, things have really started changing – you are not allowed to go into the chamber unless your name is on the order paper.
“They are making a lot of plans – from Thursday (March 26), parliament will be on recess.
“This will help give us time to do what we are here for and help the community.
“We have set up our new database, Coventry community mobilisation, so as the situation changes on a daily basis we can provide manpower.
“My concern is that the emergency services, local businesses and vulnerable people such as the elderly won’t have the resources they need.
“We have the database now, so that volunteers who want to make help preparations are on standby.
“I have spoken with charities who are concerned they don’t have enough hands on deck.
“They are struggling to get volunteers as more of us are staying at home.”
The MP’s database will hold a list of residents from all walks of life who stand ready to support local emergency services and private businesses in caring for and delivering essentials to the elderly and vulnerable Coventry residents suffering as a result of the viral outbreak.
Ms Owatemi said she is in regular talks with public authorities and community groups to manage the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone in the public authorities are more focused on making sure we are prepared – we are trying to ensure the plans in place can work efficiently, if we end up being in a situation similar to Italy we need to ensure people have the supplies they need, and ensure that we don’t run out of sanitiser in hospitals, and that medical staff have the protective gear to operate.
“I know right now pharmacists are worried about whether there is enough sanitiser for hospitals. We want to make sure hospitals can receive what they need.”
Ms Owatemi, 27, trained as a cancer pharmacist and worked at hospitals in London before she became Coventry North-West Labour MP in December.
She said: “Its very stressful for our NHS workers. Before all this the NHS was understaffed by around 100,000, so we already knew that a situation like this would have a huge effect.
“Medical staff themselves are being taken ill, and unable to come to work. It’s a worry but based on the resources they have, the NHS is trying its best.”
Now based in her Coventry constituency, Ms Owatemi has said she believed the government should have acted quicker against the virus, but her Labour colleagues are largely supporting the government.
“The most important thing now is that any decision we make is based on science. It’s based on ensuring patients are well protected, and the government is trying its utmost to deal with this situation.
“I am glad that right now they are changing the decisions – I welcome the fact schools have been closed and they are now trying to educate the public and explain to them the scenario we are in.
“From the beginning of this I have said this is a deadly virus and should be treated as one.”
The young MP did not expect the government to deal with this level of crisis. She added: “My first hundred days have been very interesting! I thought this situation could become serious so we have already had conversations about contingencies.
“Now that I am not doing my parliamentary job,I have asked to return to my pharmacist job with the hospital and if agreed I will help where staff need me.”