Helena Robinson, a postdoctoral research officer at Bangor University, has handed back her Ebola medal to the Government that she had been awarded following her five-week deployment to Sierra Leone in December 2014, in recognition of her bravery and dedication in tackling the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Along with 19 others, Helena handed back her medal on 24 July 2018, in protest at the Government’s policies and denial of health care to patients in the UK who are unable to prove their immigration status.
In a letter to Downing Street, Theresa May was told of their “great sorrow and shame” that “hostile environment” immigration policies, which she initiated first as Home Secretary and then tightened last year as the Prime Minister, are leading to needless suffering and early death. A tough regime of checks on patients’ eligibility for NHS care can require migrants, who are often penniless, to pay huge sums of money upfront before they can receive treatment.
In one instance, a Caribbean-born man who had lived in Britain for 44 years, had to pay £54,000 before he could be treated for prostate cancer, it has also been reported that other patients have died, after being denied treatment because they were deemed ineligible and could not afford to pay for treatment.
Helena said: “I returned my medal in protest at the regulations that govern the charging of overseas visitors receiving NHS care which were brought in in October 2017.
“I am particularly appalled at the upfront charging of pregnant women for maternity care and terminations. Those who cannot pay can be pursued in court or have their details shared with the home office, which is a clear deterrent to seeking care.
“I think it is hypocritical to send a battalion of medical workers overseas to fight Ebola and then deny some sections of society healthcare at home. It is also damaging to domestic public health to have a population that is invisible to the healthcare system.”
Arfon MP Hywel Williams has also given Helena his support, Mr Williams said: “I have tabled a motion in Parliament applauding my local constituent Helena Robinson for her principled decision to hand back her Ebola medal in protest at the Government’s hostile environment policies.”
“We respect the integrity of these professionals who crossed borders to help patients in desperate need, and now act to stand against the Government-imposed borders between health workers and patients in the UK.
“We call on the Government to put an end to their hostile environment policies and their unyielding attacks on the most vulnerable in our society.”
Helena Robinson during her work in Sierra Leone in 2014 and the Ebola medal she has now returned.