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A M Reid
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press
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White House coronavirus task force member, Dr. Deborah Birx, blasted media outlets for fearmongering about ventilator and ICU bed shortages, and for sharing reports from hospital workers who say soon patients will not be able to get the support they need. The reports also describe how hospitals are considering a blanket do-not-resuscitate (DNR) policy for COVID-19 patients, because if doctors and nurses are exposed to the virus, the cost to other patients may be too great.
“Please, for the reassurance for people around the world, to wake up this morning and look at people talking about creating DNR situations, do not resuscitate for patients, there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion,” Dr. Birx explained Thursday evening at a press conference.
“You can be thinking about it in a hospital. Certainly many hospitals talk about this on a daily basis. But to say that to the American people, to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed it won’t be there, or when they need that ventilator it won’t be there, we don’t have evidence of that right now.”
Dr. Birx further emphasized to the public that New York state was not experiencing shortages of ICU beds or ventilators.
“We’re reassured, in meeting with our colleagues in New York, that there are still ICU beds remaining and there are still significant, over 1,000 or 2,000 ventilators that have not been utilized yet,” she noted.
Dr. Kamini Doobay, an emergency medicine resident physician in New York City, is one of the hospital workers who expressed concerns that life-saving supplies are dwindling. She warned that if there was a sudden surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitals will be overwhelmed.
“We could potentially get to a point where there has to be a rationing of ventilators. At the rate that this virus is exponentially transmitting, you know, transmission at this stage, I go home every single night and think about what if we had to decide between two patients,” she said. “I’ve never felt so physically and emotionally burdened in my life, I’ve never felt so deeply sad and distraught.”
So far, New York has more than 44,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and since Friday morning, approximately 1,583 infected patients are in intensive care units.
In New York City, a makeshift morgue has been set up outside Bellevue Hospital, as part of the city’s emergency contingency plans.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski questioned the claims Dr. Birx made, suggesting President Donald Trump had pressured her into downplaying the situation’s severity.
“You’re hearing from the front lines across the country that they are in dire need of equipment and supplies and they have people overrunning the hospital,” Brzezinski remarked. “Explain to me, Dr. Birx, if I may, because I’m very concerned at the pressure top scientists at the White House are being put under by President Trump. I want to understand why Bellevue Hospital has a makeshift morgue, why The New York Times was able to get video out of an ER–of patient after patient–just lying there dying with COVID-19. The front lines are telling a very different story.”
Brzezinski also quoted an article by The Washington Post, which stated that “as cases mount amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment or PPE, hospitals are beginning to implement emergency measures that will either minimize, modify or completely stop the use of certain procedures on patients with COVID-19.”
In a final comment, Brzezinski called on “scientists at the top” to not “get bullied by the president because we need you.”
According to a recent United States Conference of Mayors survey, 85 percent of American cities “do not have an adequate supply of ventilators for use by health facilities in their city or area,” and 91.5 percent “of the cities do not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders (including police, fire, and EMTs) and medical personnel.”
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