New York Health Care Workers Struggle to Obtain ICU Beds, Dialysis Machines, and N95 Masks

March 30, 2020 Updated: April 1, 2020

Health care workers at the front-end of the COVID-19 response in New York City are working under extremely stressful conditions as the numbers of patients surge and resources dwindle.

Nurses at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx alleged that they don’t have enough N95 masks and critical personal protective equipment (PPE) to handle the COVID-19 outbreak.

“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-19 patients we are trying to save,” the nurses said in a release before a press event held in front of the medical center on March 28.

Two hundred and fifty-three people died from the CCP virus in New York in one day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

The death toll from the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, jumped to 1,218 in the state, more than 45 percent of all deaths in the United States. New York also accounted for 46 percent of confirmed cases in the country, reporting an increase to 66,497.

“As nurses, we’ve always advocated for the well-being of our patients and our communities. We’ve rallied and spoken up on their behalf. Now we’re in a dire situation where our patients and our staff are repeatedly put in danger,” said Kelley Cabrera, the President of New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) in a statement.

Cabrera said changes are happening rapidly during the pandemic and alleged that their hospital management has struggled with transparency regarding these changes.

The Epoch Times reached out to management at the Jacobi Medical Center, but didn’t get any response about these allegations when this report was written.

On Monday, over 9,500 patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, are hospitalized in New York, with 2,352 in intensive care units, where many are on ventilators.

Many city health care workers at the frontend of fighting the pandemic have spoken out on social media, sharing the challenges they are facing due to a shortage of beds, equipment, or PPEs.

Epoch Times Photo
A medical professional, supported by New York Army National Guard members, collects swabs to test for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in New Rochelle, New York, on March 15, 2020. (Senior Airman Sean Madden/U.S. Air National Guard/Handout via Reuters)

“We are really feeling the strain. We don’t have enough ICU beds. Many patients are being intubated as soon as they show up to the Emergency Room. We are doing our best to take care of them on regular floor beds and in the ER itself,” Prakriti Gaba, who describes herself as an Internal Medicine Resident in NYC, wrote in a message on Twitter.

In another message, Gaba wrote some of the sickest patients in her facility need dialysis but they don’t have enough machines. “We are actively rationing care—something I thought I would never see in our healthcare system.”

Another internal medicine resident in the city, Meredith talked about her “tough day.”

“Floor beds were converted to ICU beds on the fly as a cascade of patients in the ED and on the floor required emergent intubation,” wrote Meredith in a message on Twitter.

In another message, she wrote that their hospital is on the “precipice of rationing.”

“Staffing these beds requires incredible resources. Hard to say which will run out first—staffing, physical beds, ventilators, or other life support devices, e.g. CRRT machines to run continuous dialysis for the many patients developing renal failure,” wrote Meredith. She also applauded all departments in her hospital for coming together to meet the challenge.

In another message circulating on Twitter, a travel nurse working for a natural disaster relief company and currently placed at the level one Trauma Center in Elmhurst Hospital—which has turned into an epicenter of the outbreak in the city because of a large number of fatal cases—wrote about how nothing could prepare her for what she’s facing.

“When we walked in, the medical staff was so happy to see us they literally cried out in tears… doctors, nurses, therapist etc,” she wrote.

She described how a 50-bed emergency department was flooded with hundreds of patients and how people of all age groups are confirming positive for the virus.

“They have ran out of supplies, and we are working the best with what we have. they are out of pumps to run drips. They are so short of N95 mask, we only get one. they are out of body bags. They are running out of life saving medications. There are units that are out of oxygen tanks,” she wrote.

To help health care workers cope with the shortage of PPEs, various non-profits and many citizens around the country have come forward to collect and supply the essentials to the hospitals.

A group of citizens has started a popular campaign on GoFundMe, raising money for N95 masks for New York City health workers. Since March 19, it has been able to raise over $450,000 and has donated masks to hospitals at the forefront of fighting COVID-19, including the Bellevue and Elmhurst hospitals that recently saw a lot of fatal cases.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

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