The growing COVID-19 pandemic continues to sweep headlines, destroying stock markets and businesses, while infecting over 1 million worldwide. The statistics are worrisome, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, and over 1,000 people are expected to die every day. Probably the most troubling trend, is the lack of medical supplies and HCPs needed to combat the demands of the coronavirus. In fact, there is such a low ratio of HCPs to patients, that retired HCPs are being asked to temporarily leave retirement and help those who are infected with COVID-19.
Due to the lack of protective gear, such as masks and gloves, Physicians are concerned that they are not only putting their lives in more danger of contracting the disease, but their family’s lives as well. Nearly a dozen of physician parents across the nation, have sent a letter to congress, pleading that medical equipment be released from the Strategic National Stockpile, a federal cache of medical supplies. Because of the lack of supplies, physicians have claimed that they have used homemade substitute equipment to help protect themselves or sacrifice their equipment all together and take the risk of treating patients, with no protection.
Many physicians in order to protect their loved ones, have chosen to self-quarantine and live away from them, until the pandemic is over. Others say that while they still live with their family, their daily interactions with them, have changed dramatically. Take Dr. Jessica Kiss for instance, a 37-year-old California physician, who has four small children. Jessica is particularly worried about one of her children, because she suffers from asthma, which has been speculated to make individuals more susceptible to fatality, when contracted with COVID-19. Now Jessica says as soon as she gets home, she immediately jumps into the shower and afterwards launders her scrubs. Jessica also claims she has become a little more cautious when she embraces her children. The shortage is so dire, that Jessica says she would ideally use a new N95 respiratory mask every day, but that she has been using the same one since March 16th.
In the same letter to congress, 50 other physicians have described their experiences and fears with COVID-19. One physician claims their health care center stopped testing for corona, because they did not have enough equipment to keep their medical staff safe. Another physician described going to their local stores, just to find a couple of N95 masks to distribute amongst coworkers. In addition to the request of more medical supplies, HCPs have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to investigate the distribution of supplies, requesting that medical practices receive any newly manufactured equipment, over retail stores.
It’s important to realize that HCPs are putting their loved one’s lives and their own lives in harms way, every day they perform their job. Without the proper protective equipment, we could see a steep rise in the number of HCP fatalities, which in turn, could lead to hundreds of thousands of lives being lost.