Coronavirus: The young doctors being asked to play god
When the tannoy blasts out a "Team 700" alert at Elmhurst hospital in Queens in New York City it is because a "crash" team is needed immediately. Someone is going into cardiac arrest.
In normal times that would happen maybe once a week. Yesterday, during the course of one 12-hour shift, there was a Team 700 announcement nine times. Not one of the patients survived, according to the young doctor I spoke to.
She is one of the residents in emergency medicine, and nothing in her training could have prepared her for the harrowing scenes she is witnessing on a daily basis at the epicentre of the epicentre of this outbreak. The hospital, which has a capacity of 282 beds, is now housing over 500 patients, according to the latest email sent round by the hospital administrators.
And though it has not been declared as such, it is the first Covid-19 hospital in the country. Yes, the ER still functions - but all other patients who were admitted have been moved out. Only those who are gasping for breath are given beds.
In the initial stages of the outbreak, it was the worried well who would be turning up in this poor neighbourhood, Elmhurst. Now everyone is sick. Really sick. Half of the patients are undocumented, and don't speak English - they work in restaurants and are hotel chambermaids. They are not "plugged in". The calls for social distancing have passed them by.
And this medic, in her early 30s, tells me the stress is intense. Nearly everyone who arrives at the ER needs to be intubated and put on a ventilator. That would normally be a job done in the Intensive Care Unit. But they are overloaded.
These people need "pressors" - meds that will keep blood pressure up. And that is a job normally done by specialist nurses. But there aren't the nurses to do it. So people who are untrained are having to do it. "How can I not worry when there are patients not getting the care that they need?"
And she says it is not just the old who are falling prey to this. "There are patients in their 30s and 40s with no pre-existing conditions. Equally, we had a 90-year old man the other day who was brought to the ER after he had fallen at home. He had a broken leg - but he also tested positive for coronavirus - even though he was exhibiting no symptoms."https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52137160