‘Like A War Zone’: Nurses Worried For Safety As Coronavirus Cases Climb
BOSTON (CBS) – More hospital workers are being diagnosed with COVID-19, or going into quarantine, which takes them off the front line in the battle against the deadly virus.
Trish Powers is a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and feared she may become a patient this week after experiencing symptoms. “I was tested Monday night in our emergency room,” she said.
Her test came back negative, so she was able to return to work, but more than 50 of her coworkers have tested positive, and Powers fears next week her hospital could be slammed with patients. “I believe we’re gearing up that probably next week it’s really gonna be going crazy,” she said.
At Mass. General, more than 40 employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and even more have been quarantined. “If you look at the Chinese experience,” said Dr. Peter Slavin, President of Mass. General, “the rate of infections among health care workers was three times the general public.”
Dr. Slavin said Mass. General is in pretty good shape when it comes to personal protective equipment, or PPE, but he’s concerned about the long term, and thinking of ways to get creative. “We’re also looking at whether we can conserve PPE, or reuse it if we expose it to ozone, or radiation or ultraviolet light,” Dr. Slavin said.
At Brigham and Women’s, hospital staff must complete a survey saying they have no symptoms before being allowed in. Once inside, Powers said, “I go to the operating room, and I stand in a long line. That’s the line to get PPE for the day.”
Powers, who’s also a chairperson for the Mass. Nurses Association, said the hospital is running low on things like gloves and gowns, as the number of cases is expected to climb. “We expect to happen what’s been happening in New York City,” said Powers, “I think it’s really going to be like a war zone in a week or two.”
As far as hospital workers being tested, Powers said it’s possible for cases to slip through the cracks. “The test still has about a 25-30% fail rate, so you could come back negative, then days later feel sick, be tested again and be positive, which I know has happened,” she said.