About 250 health care workers participated in a social media survey asking for first-person accounts from the coronavirus pandemic front liners, and here’s what they found:
A hospital nurse in Michigan said she and her colleagues have agreed to bring in bleach and make their own disinfectant wipes.
While a pregnant nurse in Ohio explains she has no choice but to tend to critically ill patients without wearing a specialized N95 mask.On the other hand, a health care worker in Georgia has resorted to scouring local hardware stores to secure the protective masks.
The Michigan nurse, who chose to remain anonymous in fear of losing her job, and works mainly with immunocompromised patients said that nurses at her hospital have been given one N95 mask each and is required to keep them in a bag and reuse them, something that’s against manufacturer guidelines. She also reported that nurses on her floor have also been unable to obtain enough disinfectant wipes.
“We ordered five containers the other day and we only got one. One container of bleach wipes for 42 beds.”
“I don’t feel like my hospital is failing us. It’s the whole system that’s failing us.”
Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, the nation’s largest nurses’ union said:
“We certainly would not ask a firefighter to fight a fire with a spray gun,”
Burger, who has been a registered nurse for 45 years, said that neither the government nor the private sector is acting fast enough to get critical supplies to those who need them. She added:
“It is a moral obligation of our government and our employer to provide safety equipment to those of us on the front line.”
“We are unable to protect ourselves”
The majority of the medical professionals across the country who participated in the survey expressed concerns about a lack of N95 masks, which offer more protection than surgical masks.
A health care worker at a hospital in Indiana reported that medical staffers can only get the masks when a patient has tested positive for the virus, but the facility has no way to confirm a case.
The worker said in his statement:
“There are many possible exposures in my hospital but are not equipped with the testing devices in order to confirm the cases,”
“We are then not allowed to wear proper PPE because they are not ‘positive’ and because our hospital is short on the PPE. We are also told that we are expected to keep the N-95 masks for several days and several patients and that they can be disinfected with Sanicloth wipes.”
While a pregnant nurse in Ohio also shared her sentiments:
“We do not have N95 masks, so we are being asked to intubate patients (which exposes us to entire airway) with normal masks,”
“It is unacceptable. We are supposed to treat every patient as suspected positive but we are unable to protect ourselves.”
The importance of N95 masks is that it filters out airborne particulates and aerosols, and the Food and Drug Administration suggests that neither N95 masks nor surgical masks should be used more than once.
But because of the growing shortages of PPE, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested guidelines that are less strict on proper use and reuse of masks. On Thursday, the agency said bandanas and scarves could be used by health care workers in place of a mask as a last resort.
Dr. Adam Friedlander, an emergency physician in Atlanta said:
“The fact that a recommendation like that came out from the Centers for Disease Control is mind-boggling to me,”
“There was a time when a recommendation came from the CDC, we knew that it was evidence-based guidelines for how we could protect ourselves from becoming sick with a potentially fatal illness. Now we know the recommendations are coming from a place of desperation, acknowledging that these supplies are unavailable.”
A nurse who works at a major hospital in Massachusetts and said that medical staff has been told they must reuse their N95 masks five times before they are able to get a new one.
“It’s scary to have to reuse the mask. At the same time, it’s like, what are you supposed to do if there’s none to be had?”
While a doctor in Philadelphia, who is married to a doctor who works in a major hospital in the city, said her husband searched for an N95 mask at four hardware stores but couldn’t find one.
This doctor reported:
“He says, “It’s my duty,’”
“He is proud of doing all that he is able to do right now, which I am also proud of, but I am so scared. I can’t even begin to tell you.”
Dr. Nivedita Lakhera, a doctor in San Jose, California, reported her hospital is working hard to get N95 masks for all doctors but they are in short supply.
“The doctors are talking about making living wills and what will happen when we are faced with this,”
“All of us are wondering which one of us will die.”