As the United States shows signs of buckling under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic, frontline health workers are increasingly speaking out.
Nebraska nurse Lacie Gooch is among the latest to share the grisly details of being at the coalface of the pandemic response as virus cases surge and hospitals fill with patients.
“I just got off my third 12-hour shift this week ... and I’m exhausted,” she says in a video filmed on her phone.
“I have seen so many emergent intubations. I've seen people more sick than I've ever seen in my life. They just drop so fast.”
An emergent intubation is an emergency procedure done to establish an airway for patients who are unable to breathe.
Because of the highly infectious nature of the novel coronavirus, Ms Gooch said there can sometimes be delays to treatment while staff make sure they have the proper protections in place.
“What’s sad is what I would normally do... is just run in and start whatever life-saving measures they need, but with Covid, I can’t do that.
“There’s so many protections I have to take to protect myself and protect my other patients. It takes me a minute to get in there but some of these things that the patients need are emergent,” she explained.
“I need to be taking care of them right now and they’re not getting that. They’re not getting the care they deserve.”
Ms Gooch lamented that the hospital was understaffed and that nurses were run off their feet.
“We have, I think, 10 Covid units and one of those is just a place for people to go and pass away unfortunately.”
At the time of writing, the video had been watched more than 150,000 times in just a few hours after being posted by Nebraska Medicine.
It comes after a nurse who was sent to help amid a surge of cases in Texas described the horrific scenes she witnessed, and also detailed a room dubbed ‘the pit’ where Covid patients were sent to die.
"I have seen so many emergent intubations. I've seen people more sick than I've ever seen in my life." COVID ICU nurse Lacie Gooch hopes you will listen. @UNMC_ID @unmc @Prof_Lowe @DanielWJohnson9 @KellyCawcuttMD @JamesLawler11 pic.twitter.com/Sclrap3vlQ
— Nebraska Medicine (@NebraskaMed) November 17, 2020
Nurses infected with the virus told they can still work
Healthcare workers across the US are grappling with difficult conditions and potential staff shortages.
In North Dakota, where coronavirus case numbers have surged in recent weeks, some healthcare workers reacted angrily after the state governor, Doug Burgum, said last week that healthcare workers who test positive for Covid-19 but do not display symptoms should still report to work.
The infectious nurses and doctors would be working with patients who have already contracted Covid-19 in an effort to limit staff shortages.
“If hospital administrators start forcing Covid-positive staff to go to work, it’s going to be very scary,” nurse Leslie McKamey told The Guardian.
“We’re trained to do no harm, and asking Covid-positive, asymptomatic nurses to return to work is putting patients at risk. It’s putting fellow staff members at risk.”
The concern of staff shortages is playing out in many parts of the country as a third wave of coronavirus has spread largely unchecked.
In parts of Texas, local prisoners have been brought in to deal with moving the dead.
Meanwhile, at a suburban hospital in Philadelphia, nurses went on strike on Tuesday (local time), citing low staffing levels and pay issues.
The nurses said the main issue is low staffing due to low wages, and they fear the situation will only grow more dire as Covid-19 hospitalisations rise in the coming winter.
In California – which last week became the second US state to hit one million Covid cases during the pandemic – nurses have also been taking action this month, calling for better testing and contact tracing for health professionals.
“It is appalling that nurses and other health care workers are not being notified when they have been exposed to Covid-19,” emergency room nurse Marcia Santini said in a statement put out last week by the California Nurses Association.
According to The Covid Tracking Project, a record 73,000 people are currently hospitalised with with Covid-19 in the United States.
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