A LOCAL nurse who died after contracting the coronavirus “could have been saved” if he had been given personal protective equipment (PPE), a friend has said.

Gareth Roberts, 65, worked at University Hospital Llandough until he became sick with the virus and began to deteriorate.

He passed away on Saturday morning at the Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil, leaving behind his wife, son, and 16-year-old grandson.

Mr Roberts had worked as a nurse for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board since the 1980s.

His friend said that he was not protected at work, while the health board said it would take a ‘more detailed look’ at the supply of PPE.

Mr Roberts is the second member of staff in the health board to die of the virus, after a heart surgeon at the University Hospital of Wales passed away last week.

“Someone asked me why I think he caught it in the hospital. He didn’t go anywhere else. He would do his full shift, come home, have his tea and go to bed”, said his close friend Janette Leonard.

“They (NHS staff) didn’t have any PPE.

“Gareth said he had a pinny, plastic gloves, and a paper mask.

“There’s no reason why our soldiers in this fight should not be absolutely prepared for the battle.

“He was working on a Covid ward".

Janette said she had spoken to other NHS staff who were afraid of catching the virus at work.

Mr Roberts was widely respected by both colleagues and patients during his career of over 30 years.

A tribute to Gareth posted by the health board on its Facebook page attracted hundreds of messages from friends, colleagues, and ex-patients.

Janette described him as the “nicest man” she had ever met.

“(He was) really compassionate, charming, and funny.

“Gareth would just come out with something and you would drop on the floor laughing.

“He was a hardworking and caring nurse. He was a father figure on the ward.

“I’ve never met anybody as nice as him before, and I don’t think I ever will again”.

A fundraising page managed by Ms Leonard has raised £4,916 for Mr Roberts’ family, including his wife Linda, their son Ceri, and grandson Zac, who he and Linda raised after their son Dean passed away.

Mr Roberts came out of retirement in 2015.

Ms Leonard said he had worked extra shifts over the last few weeks on several wards throughout Llandough Hospital until he became ill with the virus.

Ruth Walker, Executive Nurse Director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the friends and family of both of our staff who have lost their lives to this terrible virus.

“We are aware of the concerns raised by some staff in the media regarding the availability and or inaccessibility of PPE. As a Health Board the safety of our staff is of the greatest importance alongside that of our patients. As a result of the inferences made we are taking a more detailed look into the availability of PPE at UHL and we regularly check our systems to ensure that we get stock to the right place at the right time.

“As a Health Board, we have enough PPE equipment available and in stock, providing the right level of PPE is used in the right circumstances to meet the national guidance as well as the high standards we have set ourselves as a Health Board.

“If a colleague has not found this to be the case and they have encountered either a shortage or a perceived shortage we would encourage them to raise it immediately.”

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said that it had issued 10.4 million extra items of PPE to frontline health and social care workers.

Last weekend, Unison Wales wrote to the First Minister Mark Drakeford about the provision of PPE after receiving several reports from health workers about shortages in hospitals and care homes.

UNISON Cymru Wales Secretary Tanya Palmer said: “This is a matter of urgency. Any supply chain issues the Welsh government is experiencing with the UK government must be overcome immediately.

“UK government ministers urging workers to be careful with their use of PPE are highly irresponsible and will lead to further deaths.

“We need to know urgently, what are the stock levels, where are they being stored and when will they be delivered. This is killing our people".

To donate to Mr Roberts' family, visit: www.gofundme.com/mvc.php?route=homepage_norma/search&term=gareth%20roberts