Late one evening, a woman walked in off the street to Beaumont Hospital's emergency department and was fortunate to be treated by Dr Syed Waqqar Ali. She was homeless and she had no money, she told the doctor. She said she had been deserted by her family.
"It was cold and wet and she wasn't known to staff as attending before, on many occasions. After treating her, he gave her a small amount of money for herself. He felt sorry for her, given her young age and the fact that she had no family at home. Family was important to him," according to a registrar at the hospital.
Dr Ali was the eighth health worker to die of Covid-19 in Ireland, a gentle and wise presence in the emergency departments at several hospitals where he worked as a locum in emergency.
Dr Ali moved to Ireland 20 years ago and lived in Tyrellstown, west Dublin, with his wife, Rubab, and his five children, Samar, Arslan, Salman, Jarrar and Zahra.
Along with Beaumont Hospital, he had worked at Tallaght, Our Lady's Hospital, Navan, and had just begun a stint at the Mater Hospital when he fell ill. He spent three months at the hospital being treated in intensive care by colleagues and died at the age of 59.
According to Dr Michael Quirke, who worked with him at Beaumont Hospital, his kindness towards the homeless person demonstrated his empathy. Usually, he said, such cases would be given food and assigned a social worker, but it was late, and nothing could be done with her until the morning.
Beaumont Hospital Emergency Department. Photo: Tony Gavin
"People like Dr Waqqar Ali are central to the running of emergency services. It is one of the busiest jobs in the hospital. It is intense work and very intense work for locums. Without them working like this, literally posts would be unfilled," he said.
Dr Ali last worked at Beaumont in February and had just started at the Mater Hospital.
"He had been due to begin a shift at the Mater Hospital in April when he felt unwell. He asked to be seen as a patient and was admitted immediately with Covid-19 illness," a statement said.
A GoFundMe page set up to support his family reported in July: "He has eyes opening, can move his arms and understand talks from family members, according to his wife."
Dublin’s Mater Hospital, where Dr Ali was treated. Photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
However, his recovery was short lived.
His daughter Dr Samar Fatima Ali told RTE news that he had been an "outstanding doctor and the best dad we could have asked for".
"There are no words for the battle he fought every day," she said. "It was very difficult to see our father in so much pain. My dream was to work with my father and to work together someday. There's still a Dr Ali and she will carry on his legacy."
In the wake of Dr Ali's death, the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, said that frontline healthcare workers who died from Covid-19 while carrying out their duties will be eligible for a retrospective compensation package.
The proposal was contained in a Private Member's Bill from Fianna Fail TD John Lahart. Donnelly told the Dail last week: "It's my intention that this scheme will apply to everyone who is a frontline, hands-on worker who put themselves a risk every day to keep the rest of us safe and sometimes tragically, as we've seen today, they pay the ultimate sacrifice.
"It's the least we can do to stand up and support our quite extraordinary frontline workers."
The Mater Hospital has opened an online book of condolences for Dr Ali. The hospital said he "provided selfless emergency care to Covid-19 patients at a number of hospitals as a locum during this pandemic".
"The entire hospital community here at the Mater were saddened by Dr Syed Waqqar Ali's passing," said Alan Sharp, hospital chief executive. "Dr Ali cared for many patients during the Covid-19 pandemic and made the ultimate sacrifice."
At his funeral in the Newcastle Muslim Cemetery in Dublin last week, his family spoke out to warn people to be vigilant against Covid-19. "The only way people will understand is if Covid hits them as hard as it hit us."
The Irish Muslim Peace and Integration Council said Dr Ali worked "at the front line in the battle against Covid-19 like many other healthcare workers".
"Healthcare workers are at the front fighting against Covid-19 and are true heroes. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family on their terrible loss," a statement said. "He died a martyr helping humanity and as per Islamic belief shall rest in peace in heaven. To God we belong and to God we shall return."
It emerged yesterday that the lowest number of Covid-19 patients are in hospital since the peak, the head of the Health Service Executive has said.
Paul Reid said there are 10 confirmed positive cases in hospital, with five patients with Covid-19 in intensive care.
The figures show a 96pc drop from a peak of 140 people in intensive care in April.
Reid tweeted: "Our thoughts with everyone for a full recovery."
The Department of Health confirmed that one person has died from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours. The health system has been notified of another 24 confirmed Covid-19 cases.