Local Frontlines: What our healthcare workers are seeing on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic in our hospitals

Almost three weeks ago we began pressing for answers as to the situation of our local hospitals and the status that they are in. The questioning began when we began getting emails, text messages and facebook messages from nurses claiming that they were becoming increasingly concerned about local hospital capacity. Days later, local government officials began lightly touching on the issue in public as the coronavirus began to really rise into full bloom. But how bad is it inside our area hospitals and what are nurses really experiencing?

Late Thursday evening we spoke with three nurses from our local hospitals who told us that what they were seeing is unimaginable. They used words like “terrifying” and “horrific” to describe what they were seeing. One of them wanted the public to know about the real situation that they decided to have a friend of a friend post their comments in fear that they would end up being terminated for talking to the public without consent of their management. Each of them shared their stories with us and here is what we learned from them:

The nurses that we spoke with said that they are grateful for the resources and supplies that emergency managers are sending their way. But they feel that it is coming just a little bit too late.

”The problem is not just rooms. It’s staffing mainly and then equipment. There are not enough nurses to adequately care for everybody. There are not enough supplies, oxygen tubing, etc.,” one the nurse told us on Thursday. “You can place patients in rooms but who is going to care for them? Who is going to clean?”

This nurse told us that medical staff usually work 12-hour shifts (at least in the ED). With the shortage, they are working longer hours and hardly getting any days off. That alone is taking a toll.

This particular nurse posted the comments the days before while working in the emergency department before going to a different area of the hospital to fill-in.

” I haven’t been back to the ED since I posted. I’ll be back there tomorrow night to see how it is,” she said.

Another major concern is overall capacity for the everyday patients that still come through the doors of the emergency department. They still have to be treated and many of them have to be admitted to the hospital for further treatment. We asked how conditions are for those patients?

“Patients are holding in the ED for a room, sometimes up to 3 days,” this emergency department nurse told us. “Hospitals are full in Corpus.”

Everything from minor aches and pains to major trauma cases still need to be seen and like everywhere else in the world, this is posing a problem even right here at home.

“The other patients we still treat. Sometimes in the hallway or from the lobby/triage area,” one of the nurses explained. “Those do not stop coming just because there’s COVID-19.”

Many of those who are feeling ill in our community are deciding that they just do not want to go to the hospital and that poses a concern of it’s own for both hospital workers and members of the public.

There has been discussion for weeks about people who need emergency medical treatment opting to just not go to the emergency room. Many of them are indigent, elderly or even both. They come to the emergency room for treatment of everyday problems but can’t afford to be seen at a freestanding ER, private doctor’s office of cash clinic. Even public clinics are becoming overwhelmed and are often complicated to navigate on a good day without coronavirus. Those patients are going to the emergency department or they are just staying at home—or dying.

“Yes, people that actually need to come in are staying away because they don’t want to get COVID-19, or take up a bed or they just don’t like hospitals,” one of the nurses explained. “I don’t know the exact numbers but I have heard that more people have died at home or waiting too long before they come in and then it’s too late.”

But what if you have COVID-19 or show up with symptoms of the virus? Local hospitals are taking precautions but there is only so much they can do.

“They’re in a room in the ED with the door closed,” the nurse emergency nurse explained. “We have a few of those. We just hope and pray there are more rooms than COVID-19 patients. Regular beds are in the open.”

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