The State of New York is waging war against the new coronavirus (COVID-19), with the latest counting of deaths by the virus exceeding those who died in terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Physicians are at the heart of the battlefield, and Professor Jeun Hye-young of Clinical Emergency Medicine at New York Medical College-Metropolitan Hospital is one of them. She is working at the emergency room (ER) of the Metropolitan Hospital Center in New York City.
|Professor Jeun Hye-young of Clinical Emergency Medicine at New York Medical College-Metropolitan Hospital speaks on a live YouTube show, “Corona Fighters Live,” Tuesday by K-Healthlog, a channel operated by The Korea Doctors' Weekly.|
Jeun was on a live YouTube show, “Corona Fighters Live,” Tuesday by K-Healthlog, a channel operated by The Korea Doctors' Weekly.
She said seven out of 10 visitors to the ER of the hospital in New York were suspected of COVID-19 infection.
The U.S. reported 367,650 confirmed cases and 10,943 deaths as of Tuesday. About 27 percent of the 1.34 million diagnosed cases worldwide occurred in the U.S. New York State, in particular, is in a dire situation. The number of confirmed patients in the state has surpassed 130,000, and deaths, 4,000.
The surge of COVID-19 patients is crowding hospitals where masks and medical supplies such as ventilators are running short.
“The number of COVID-19 patients (in New York) started to shot up from late March. About two-thirds of patients at the ER are believed to be COVID-19 patients,” Jeun said during the YouTube show.
The hospital where she works finds it hard to collect statistics on COVID-19 patients because diagnostic testing results do not come just in several hours, she noted. “At our ER, doctors make decisions based on patients’ symptoms to provide care,” she said.
According to Jeun, about 100 patients were visiting the ER of the Metropolitan Hospital Center.
She went on to say that the hospital was providing medical services three times more than usual, but could not accept all COVID-19 patients.
“As our hospital beds cannot accommodate a fast-increasing number of COVID-19 patients, we are admitting only those who need oxygen treatment or intubation due to low oxygen saturation,” she said. “We’re telling the remaining patients to self-isolate, and some of them may experience the worsening of symptoms because of this.”
She noted that the hospital was also short of masks and medical supplies.
Emergency medicine specialists recently discussed making guidelines for using ventilators at morning meetings at the Metropolitan Hospital Center, Jeun said.
Her hospital also lacked N95 masks needed for aerosol-forming surgery, and not every staff in the ER could wear N95 masks. “I heard some other hospital gave one N95 mask every five days or once a week,” she added.
Healthcare professionals in New York are facing a “very dangerous situation” because patients could not get tested enough, which made it impossible to tally accurate numbers of confirmed cases, Jeun said.
“I feel anxious and stressed out. When I’m at the clinical scene, however, I see everyone working so hard without any time to sit for a moment, and forget about such worries,” she said.
It used to take at least a week to get a result of COVID-19 testing, but the time was reduced to two days recently, Jeun noted. At the ER, specialists were making their clinical judgment to treat COVID-19 patients.
“We run COVID-19 testing only for patients who need admission. So, patients with mild symptoms can’t get tested. This is the hospital’s guideline, regardless of the cost,” she said.
Jeun criticized the U.S. government for failing to prepare thoroughly for the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The Donald Trump administration seemed to think that the U.S. would not be affected by the outbreak that hard, even after they watched a spike of patients in Korea and Italy,” she said.
As a doctor working in the U.S., Jeun said she could not believe how bad the U.S. situation has become.
“I guess the U.S. preparations were insufficient.”
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