An overwhelmed nurse working on the front line in the battle against coronavirus has revealed how medical staff are ‘terrified’ that the nation’s hospitals will collapse under the onslaught of a massive outbreak.
And the health care worker blames a woeful lack of preparation, zero transparency from hospital management and poor communication from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Los Angeles based registered nurse, who, fearing retribution asked to remain anonymous, says she and her colleagues, which include doctors and other high ranking medical staff, are fearful the crisis will quickly overwhelm their resources resulting in unnecessary deaths.
She also feels ‘let down’ by the government and she and many colleagues believe Donald Trump’s ‘nonchalant, no big deal’ attitude hasn’t helped the situation.
‘I hate to use foul language but it’s a bit of a sh**show,’ the nurse blasted in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com.
An LA-based registered nurse, who asked to remain anonymous, says she and her colleagues, are fearful the coronavirus crisis will overwhelm their resources
The nurse says there’s an obvious lack of ventilators and available beds to deal with the surge of seriously ill patients
‘We have thought about these things on small levels, but we have not tested any of it and we are not prepared for a lot of this.
‘From a nursing perspective, what is keeping us up at night, is this lack of preparation, lack of transparency and no plan of attack.
‘I work on the frontline. I’m terrified of how the slow response and slow direction from basically all government agencies has added to the risk and will cost lives.
‘I ride public transportation to work and even I don’t know if I should and I’m a nurse.
‘I think CDC has been trying, but have they been trying hard enough? Have we taken a strong enough stance, have we acted quickly and decisively? In my opinion no.
‘We do not want to cause panic, but there is a reason to be afraid. What you are seeing over toilet paper is going to happen in hospital hallways over ventilators.’
She added ominously: ‘This is a sink or swim situation and it feels like we have been thrown in without a life boat.’
The nurse, who is a senior charge nurse with more than 11 years experience across multiple health care roles, says hospitals have been getting ‘mixed messages’ from central government which has a detrimental affect on any preparations.
LA County announced 50 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to more than 140.
The deadly pathogen has claimed 12 lives in California so far as officials take extraordinary measures to try to slow the spread.
‘It doesn’t help that you have a very nonchalant, no big deal, this is nothing attitude coming from the highest levels of our government either,’ the nurse said.
‘I know that is now changing, but you have a huge base of people who really believe everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. It’s hard to continue being in this profession when you have the mentality of a lot of people like that.’
She says she feels ‘let down’ by government and she and many colleagues believe Donald Trump’s ‘nonchalant, no big deal’ attitude hasn’t helped
Health officials have already warned the government that they’re not fully equipped to handle a massive coronavirus outbreak after experts estimated the US could see as many as one million cases of COVID-19.
Hospitals are setting up triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients.
Depending on how bad the crisis gets, the sick could find themselves waiting on stretchers in emergency room hallways for hospital beds to open up, or be required to share rooms with other infected patients.
Some doctors fear hospitals could become so overwhelmed that they could be forced to ration medical care.
The nurse who spoke to DailyMail.com is also concerned about already overworked, frazzled staff becoming burnt out at the height of the crisis.
Not to mention the nightmare situation many nurses now find themselves in with no access child care.
But she and her colleagues’ biggest fear is the obvious lack of ventilators and available beds to deal with the surge of seriously ill patients.
In Wuhan, China, where the outbreak originated in late December, patients died because they couldn’t access care.
In the event of running out of ventilators, we’re going to have to make in the moment decisions on who lives and who dies
According to a report by the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, under the worst-case scenario, the number of active infections will exceed the number of beds by a large margin in the next fortnight.
‘In the event of running out of ventilators, we’re going to have to make in the moment decisions on who lives and who dies,’ she says. ‘And of course there’s limited bed space.’
What’s more the nurse believes we’re going to see a lot of healthcare professionals themselves getting ill.
‘Our staffing is going to take a big dive. We’re going to have patients who require one to one observation and we will not have staff availability.
‘With everything we can see and project forward, with the way things are going right now… we’re definitely going to see an increase in the death toll.’
The nurse says that at the beginning of March her hospital began preparing in earnest for the coronavirus outbreak to worsen as the cases in the US began to rapidly grow.
‘I will say that my hospital is absolutely one of the more prepared and is taking this very seriously,’ she said.
But last Wednesday the nurse said their was a sudden switch in feeling.
What was happening around the world and in other US states didn’t match the mixed messages she and her colleagues were getting from hospital management and the CDC.
‘Things started to feel very different and very concerning last week,’ she says.
‘A lot of that has to do with the lack of clear communication and transparency that we are getting from even our allies in the CDC.
‘Our leadership in government, there has been a slowness to respond. And even my hospital, which normally should be leading the way, is having to deal with some of this hesitation.
‘It didn’t help that the first batch of tests that we did get from the CDC were confessed to be faulty.
‘So at the very beginning testing may not have been accurate so the numbers are off.’
The nurse tells DailyMail.com that she expects the crisis to result in unnecessary deaths
Registered Nurses and Healthcare workers participated in a day of action rally at the USC Keck Hospital in Los Angeles last week. The rally was in response to the CDC’s weakening coronavirus guidance
Last week, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association asked for a presidential emergency declaration allowing doctors and nurses to work across state lines and would waive certain rules to free up hospital beds.
Similar declarations were issued during Hurricane Katrina and the swine flu outbreak.
On Friday, President Donald Trump responded by issuing an emergency declaration and said he was giving the US health secretary authority to waive federal regulations and laws to give doctors and hospitals ‘flexibility’ in treating patients.
Plans are also underway to allow partnerships with major businesses to set up drive-thru testing centers.
But the nurse says the fear within healthcare is palpable.
She admits that in her position she is not privy to all the high level strategy plans being discussed behind the scenes at her hospital.
But she says: ‘It’s more of a general fear because of the lack of information or lack of preparedness. Whatever is being discussed, there’s a lack of transparency.
She added: ‘We know that there was a slow response to get us the proper tests for coronavirus. ‘Los Angeles has a very slow rollout on testing. We know from our colleagues that at one of the bigger hospitals on Wednesday last week they had four cases suspected cases of coronavirus come in and because of the red tape that was still in place, they were only allowed to test one patient. So the numbers, the data that we have, is still very inaccurate.’
The situation with protective masks is also of concern.
The nurse says caregivers are using masks in hospitals which have a 90 minute limit of use, but she fears this isn’t sustainable.
‘In the event that something happens and let’s say that I spent my first hour with a patient and all of a sudden towards the end of my shift that patient is crashing and now I have to spend an extra hour in there, I can’t just pop out of an emergency to change my mask,’ she says.
The nurse says her hospital does have access to protective suits called PAPR, which vent the air out, but those are of limited supply.
The government claims it is working on a solution.
In New York Monday, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center said that they only have a week’s supply of masks available.
The shortage is apparently due to production and distribution delays in China, where most personal protective equipment is manufactured.
In Connecticut, around 200 nurses couldn’t to do their jobs because they were stuck in isolation.
They were unable to get tested after being exposed to coronavirus.
As panic over the spread of coronavirus deepens the healthcare system will be inundated with concerned citizens wanting help, even if they show no symptoms.
The nurse said a lot of colleagues at other facilities say their hospitals still haven’t stopped visitors coming to the hospital and claim they’re getting hundreds of looky-loos and people asking for masks even though they’re not sick.
The health care worker blames lack of preparation, zero transparency from hospital management and poor communication from the CDC. Pictured are empty shelves inside a CVS in Burbank, California
The usually bustling Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica is closed in response to the coronovirus outbreak
Some hospitals are yet to cancel elective surgeries and they’re not doing proper triaging of coronavirus patients.
Burn out is another major concern and tired and stressed out nurses are turning to companies like HOLLIBLU to help bolster morale.
The LA based firm has launched an app to support nurses across the country, especially during this stressful time.
Founder and CEO Cara Lunsford told DailyMail.com: ‘The level of burnout that I was seeing in the nursing community concerned me, well before we ever had COVID-19.
‘I was really concerned about what was going to happen to the nurse community because so many nurses, even after just two years as a medical professional, were looking for other jobs. ‘And I was starting to think what’s going to happen if we lose our bedside nurses, what’s going to happen to healthcare.’
Founder and CEO HOLLIBLU Cara Lunsford told DailyMail.com: ‘The level of burnout that I was seeing in the nursing community concerned me, well before we ever had COVID-19
For the charge nurse who shared her experiences with DailyMail.com, despite all the concern over the oncoming crisis, she knows she and her colleagues will step up to the mark during this crisis.
‘Yes we’re concerned, we’re afraid, but that’s not stopping anything,’ she said. ‘We will stare this crisis head on and we will show up. When you put us where we’re supposed to be and you put us to work and we know what we’re doing, that’s when we take over, we’re the bridge.’
HOLLIBLU boss Lunsford, a former registered nurse, echoes that sentiment.
‘This is exactly why nurses need to be cared for even more, because these nurses are the people who run head first into crises,’ she said.
‘They are the ones that are showing up despite the fact that their children are out of school and they’re struggling to find childcare.
‘They are the ones that put themselves in the line of fire. And already they’re not being cared for it, the institutions are not supporting them, they’re not backing them.
‘We need to raise the bar on how they’re treated, so in times like these, they can come to the front line.’
Lunsford’s firm has started a program called Nurse Kid Watch which asks the community and support group to pitch in and help each other during the crisis.
HOLLIBLU is supporting nurses by sending them on mission trips, offering support and guidance and throwing pizza parties at hospitals on Fridays to boost morale.
Lunsford has also created the Do Better initiative which aims to raise the standards of how nursing staff are treated in terms of pay, adequate health care plans and getting proper breaks on long shifts.
‘We realize that we really needed to build some support for them and also be able to raise the level of how companies are treating their nurses.
‘What we’re doing is challenging companies to think about why they are so short staffed, why they have such a high turnover of personnel.’
HOLLIBLU is free to join for nurses and the firm has 8,000 people who have downloaded the app and 3,000 that are active on the platform.
For more info please visit holliblu.com