MEDICS at a New York City medical center say they’re on a “suicide mission” as they combat the coronavirus after one of their own died over the weekend.
Doctors and nurses serving on the front lines at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx say they’re exposed to the same thing their patients are because they lack the proper protective gear.
Kelley Cabrera, a nurse at the hospital, told the New York Daily News: “We just had a nurse who passed away over the weekend from this.”
“We are starting to see our own fall sick. Who’s going to replace us?”
“We’re on a suicide mission,” she said, adding "[President Donald] Trump has blood on his hands. I can’t be more blunt than that.”
Freda Ocran, the former head nurse of the hospital’s psychiatric unit who was among those protesting the lack of protective equipment, died from the coronavirus on Saturday.
“She had concerns, especially with working with patients and other staff and how long it was taking to be tested,” her son, Kwame Ocran, told the New York Post.
Ocran’s son said: “Without those tests being administered, there’s no way of knowing if she was working with someone who had it or not.”
“She complained and was concerned about the precautions being taken.”
Days before she died, the nurse posted a picture of herself on Facebook alongside the caption: “I CAN’T STAY HOME…I’M A HEALTHCARE WORKER.”
On Saturday, Jacobi nurses held a rally demanding better equipment and more supplies after they were told to ration their N95 masks to use them for up to five days, and to wear a surgical mask on top of it.
Cabrera told the Post: “Management is limiting access to PPE equipment, and asking nurses to reuse N95s for an entire week. This is unacceptable for nurses and the COVID patients we are trying to save.”
She said nurses are also expected to use one set of paper scrubs each day, despite normally being thrown out between patients.
“All of these things contribute to cross-contamination,” she told the Daily News.
“A year ago this would have been fireable. I’m talking about my hospital’s policy, which follows CDC guidelines.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told medical providers to use bandanas if they run out of the masks, while volunteers with sewing skills in the U.S. are using publicly shared patterns to bolster supplies.
Cabrera, the New York State Nurses Association union rep at Jacobi, said city officials know what they’ve asked the nurses to do is risky, but they just don’t have enough supplies.
N95 masks are used in industrial settings as well as hospitals, and they filter out 95 percent of all airborne particles — including ones too tiny to be blocked by regular masks.
The nurse who died is among a handful of other front-line medics who are or have suffered from the coronavirus.
Thomas Riley, a Jacobi nurse, said he and his husband have both contracted the virus.
“I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter,” he told The New York Times.
He said when he looked out into the emergency room recently, he realized his fellow medics are unable to avoid being infected.
“I’m swimming in this,” he said he thought at the time. “I’m pretty sure I’m getting this.”
On Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City hospitals only had enough supplies to get through the week, until April 5.
"We have enough supplies to get to a week from today with the exception of ventilators. We're going to need at least several hundred more ventilators very quickly," de Blasio said on CNN.
"But we have otherwise the supplies to get to next Sunday. We are going to need a reenforcement by Sunday, April 5 in all categories, especially ventilators but in other areas as well. And personnel is becoming more and more the issue."
But it’s not just in New York, the epicenter of the United States’ coronavirus outbreak, that supplies are growing more and more scarce.
A home health nurse, who is part of the Oregon Nurses Association, told The Associated Press she’s terrified she’s spreading coronavirus from one place to the next.
She visits elderly patients in assisted living facilities without a mask, gloves or other protective equipment.
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“I wake up every morning in fear, absolutely terrified I’m going to do something to harm an entire generation of our seniors,” she said. “It makes me sick.”
Across the U.S., more than 189,000 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed and over 1,700 people have died from it.
New York City alone has seen more than 1,000 of those deaths, with 43,119 cases.
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