A POPULAR nurse who died of Covid-19 in the hospital where he worked had not undergone the training and testing to ensure that his masks fitted correctly.

An inquest heard that in the weeks leading up to his death Rizal Manolo – known as Zaldy – expressed concern to his wife Agnes about the lack of personal protection equipment available (PPE), the heavy reliance on agency staff who were not trained up to the same standard as others, and about “unpleasant” working conditions in the ward where he worked at Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan.

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board carried out an investigation following his death on June 14 last year, and it was only then that managers learned that the 51-year-old had a second job working at the Southern House Nursing Home in Abergele.

In a statement read at the Ruthin hearing Mrs Manolo said her husband started work at Glan Clwyd in 2014, having moved to North Wales from the Phillippines in 2001.

She said he worked hard to earn money for his family and was highly respected in the community.

At the time of his death she said: “He was a good husband and a loving father to his children.”

He was admitted to Glan Clwyd on May 25 with respiratory problems and low oxygen levels and tested positive for Covid.

The inquest heard that despite various medications and procedures his condition deteriorated and he died of multi-organ failure due to Covid-19 pneumonia.

The chief coroner for North Wales East and Central, John Gittins, said it was clear that everything possible was done to save him.

Dr Kath Clarke, who led the investigation following his death, said it was very unusual to lose a colleague and it was important that everything possible be done to protect employees.

The review found, she said, that although there had been an adequate supply of PPE there was sometimes an issue over distribution, but she stressed that so early in the pandemic the situation was rapidly changing and new guidelines were being issued.

“We were working in the dark as much as anybody,” she said. “It was changing all the time.”

Dr Clarke told the inquest that training was available for staff at the time on ensuring that masks fitted correctly but it was found that Mr Manolo had not had the “fit test”.

Since his death, she said, systems were now in place to follow up those who hadn’t had the tests, and the same applied to agency staff.

The coroner said there was the same potential for infection in care homes, and Dr Clarke said there now more of an obligation for those jobs to be declared.

Recording a conclusion of natural causes, Mr Gittins said the evidence was not strong enough for him to record it as a death from industrial disease because of the extraneous circumstances which could have led to Mr Manolo contracting the virus.

He said it was clear from Dr Clarke that action had been taken following the investigation which meant it would not be appropriate to issue a Prevention of Future Deaths report.

“I am reassured that lessons have been learned where they can be learned,” commented.

Expressing his condolences to Mrs Manolo and her family, he said: “The picture I have of him is of a kind, generous, compassionate, loving person who was committed to helping others. I hope you are proud of him because you should be.”

A statement from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: " As a health board we hope today’s inquest has given the family, work colleagues and many friends of Rizal “Zaldy” Manalo some closure after his tragic and untimely death.

"The tributes already paid to Zaldy bear testament to his dedication towards helping other people and his positive character.

"He was a valued and trusted nurse and an integral part of our team on Ward 5 at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, who came here from the Philippines with his compatriots to care for our patients in 2001.

"We wish Zaldy’s wife Agnes and their children, Nicole and Dylan, peace and happiness as they continue their lives without him.

Betsi Cadwaladr chief executive Jo Whitehead said: “Sadly, I never had the pleasure of meeting Zaldy.

“However the messages of condolence and tributes paid to him illustrate to me he was a fine nurse, who was loved and respected by his colleagues.

“I sincerely respect those words and offer my heartfelt thanks on behalf of the health board for his years of service to the people of North Wales.”