A dedicated nurse who has worked in the NHS since she arrived in London from Hong Kong in the 1970s has died from coronavirus at the age of 70.
Alice Kit Tak Ong, who worked for the health service for 44 years, was described by her daughter Melissa as “completely dedicated”.
Her family believe she may have contracted the virus while working without protective equipment in a doctor’s surgery.
Ong came to the UK aged 23 to study nursing and joined the health service as soon as she was able.
At 70, she was still working full-time across two surgeries and running busy baby clinics until she became ill with coronavirus. At first she self-isolated at home, but when her breathing deteriorated her family called an ambulance and she was taken to hospital.
On Tuesday morning, two weeks after she was admitted, she died peacefully in the care of doctors and nurses at the Royal Free hospital in London.
Her daughter, Melissa Ong, 37, said her mother had spent her life helping and caring for others. “She was completely dedicated to her work, that’s what she was doing until the moment she was taken ill,” she said. “She loved her job and she loved her patients.”
After qualifying, Ong worked first as a midwife, then as a diabetic specialist nurse before working in the community for the last 20 years.
Dr Amrit Lamba, a GP at the Colindale medical centre in Barnet, where Ong was the practice nurse, said they had shared a passion for the treatment of diabetes and “Kit”, as she was known, had encouraged and supervised his own specialism in the area.
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“She had talked of retirement, but nursing and medicine was a real passion for her and she would never let it go,” he said. “Even at the end of her career, she was up-to-date on every development and sharing her wisdom with the practice. She’ll be missed and remembered very, very fondly.”
Jacqui Tonge, practice manager at the Greenfield medical centre, where Ong also worked, said she was “loyal, dependable, kind” and always put others first.
“She cared deeply about her patients and she was a great mentor and role model for junior nurses,” said Tonge. “She was incredibly experienced and knowledgeable. We’ve not just lost a work colleague, we’ve lost a friend.”
Her family believe she may have contracted the virus while working in doctors’ surgeries.
“We don’t know for sure when she contracted it, but she was working without protective equipment,” said her daughter. But, she added: “We’ve accepted it, she was doing what she loved.”
Ong’s daughter and her husband, Marcus – whom she met in London and married in 1977 – were unable to go to hospital to visit her, because of her husband’s age and underlying health conditions.
But Melissa Ong praised the care her mother had received at the Royal Free. “The nurses and doctors were fantastic throughout. They kept us in touch right up to the last moment so she could hear us over the phone,” she said. “I knew she was in good hands, and they were with her in her last moments.”
Ong said the family had been inundated with messages of condolences and love.
“She had a very good heart and very generous personality. Everybody loved her,” she said. “She always believed in the good in people.”