American hospitals are stretched to capacity because of the coronavirus pandemic. Many doctors almost cannot protect themselves from infection. And in addition to fighting the disease, many have to fight their own employer.
An outbreak of coronavirus could cost the United States up to 240,000 lives, the US government fears. And in hospitals from New York to California, a nervous breakdown could take place even before the supposed peak of the epidemic.
Doctor Shamit Patel from New York fears that the situation would soon repeat the situation like in some regions of northern Italy, where doctors, due to the huge number of patients, are forced to decide whom to treat and who would die. The number of patients per physician is likely to increase two or three times, says the 46-year-old doctor in an interview with the AFP news agency. This cannot go on indefinitely, because then an effective treatment is impossible.
Meanwhile, hospitals are threatening to dismiss those employees who state about working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic. In some cases, threats were already realized.
Doctor Henry Nikicicz from Texas, also faced threats of dismissal from the El Paso University Hospital. According to The New York Times, Nikicicz refused to take off the protective mask outside the medical facility. Because he has asthma, protection for him is simply vital. However, many clinics insist on the absence of masks in public places, so as not to create the impression of a high viral load in the hospitals.
In New York State, meanwhile, over 1,000 people died from coronavirus. By Sunday evening, 776 deaths were recorded due to Covid-19 in this city. In other parts of the state, at least 250 people died. Pictures and video at the beginning of the week demonstrated how the workers transported corpses from Brooklyn Hospital in Fort Green by forklift.
The US faces not only not enough hospital beds, but also space for the bodies of the dead. In recent days, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been calling the federal government again and again for desperate requests for help. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sent 85 refrigerated trucks to help him.
At some hospitals, such as the Lenox Hill Clinic in Manhattan, trucks park right on the roads and next to apartment buildings. Dead bodies are loaded into refrigerators, and people are passing by in cars and buses. The New York City Forensic Science Department also organized an auxiliary corpse depot. The last time it resorted to such measures was after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Kamini Doobay emergency doctor from New York says: "I have never been so physically and emotionally exhausted in my life, I have never felt such bitterness and despair."
The fight against coronavirus for many doctors has also become a fight against their own employer. Ming Lin, an emergency doctor in Washington, according to Bloomberg, said he found out about his dismissal last Friday after giving a newspaper interview about a Facebook post. There, he detailed his views on inadequate protective measures and tests. In Chicago, a nurse was fired, who told her colleagues via e-mail that she would like to have a higher-quality face shield at work. In New York, NYU Langone Health System threatened employees with dismissal if they communicate with the media without permission.
"Hospitals do not allow nurses and other health workers to talk about what is happening to save face," said Ruth Schubert, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Nurses Association, a Washington-based medical staff organization. “It's outrageous.”
"Nurses get sick and die"
Hospitals have always had strict rules regarding communication with the media to protect patients' privacy. Employees are usually encouraged to communicate with reporters only through official PR services. But the pandemic ushered in a new era, Schubert says.
Workers in the healthcare system "should be able to tell the public what is going on in organizations that treat patients with coronavirus," she says.
Other nurses and doctors must also be prepared for the impending wave of new patients. Also, it is impossible to prohibit medical personnel from requiring funding for urgently needed equipment, especially personal protective equipment, which saves not only health workers, but also patients and their families from infection when they return home.
“It’s good and appropriate for healthcare workers to be able to voice their own fears and concerns, especially if they get better protection as a result,” says Glenn Cohen, head of the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Law School.
It is likely that hospitals are trying to minimize reputation damage, because, "if health officials say that they are not protected, the public is dissatisfied with the system."
Chicago-based nurse Lauri Mazurkiewicz, fired from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital when she urged colleagues to wear more protective equipment, sued because of the wrongful dismissal.
"Many hospitals lie to their staff and say that normal masks are enough, and nurses get sick and die," she says.
Mazurkiewicz, 46, has asthma, and she is caring for a father who has a respiratory tract disease. He is 75 years old, he is in the highest risk group. “I didn’t want to get infected because I wear the wrong mask and then pass the disease on to patients and family,” she says.
A spokeswoman for the Northwest Memorial declined to comment on the lawsuit. The hospital reported via email that it was committed to “employee safety.”
Charles Prosper, Head of PeaceHealth St. Network Joseph Medical Center, where Lin worked in Bellingham, emailed that Lin had "publicly criticized" the hospital’s willingness to treat patients.
“Our oath requires: do no harm,” says Lin. “I advocated for the safety of patients, and because of this I was fired.”
Read the original text at Die Welt