Two emergency doctors, one in New Jersey and the other Washington State, are in critical condition after being diagnosed with the coronavirus, and top health officials are concerned about the safety of healthcare workers across the country.
One of the sick doctors, who works at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, and is in his 40s, remains in critical condition, while the other physician, who is in his 70s, is in intensive care, the New York Times reported.
A federal employee and emergency room physician, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not given clearance to speak freely on the record, said these are the cases we could be seeing more of going forward if there aren’t more steps taken to protect people working in emergency rooms.
“I don’t personally believe that American hospitals are prepared for this,” the employee told InsideEdition.com. “There has been almost no preparation for the healthcare workers. That’s the general gist, ‘oh, you’ll be fine put a mask on. Don’t worry about it,’ and that’s not true.”
The employee added that hospitals have a duty to protect their staff and that isn’t currently happening. Much of the testing for coronavirus has been deferred to the nations hospitals, and the employee said that in itself creates more risk.
“I believe emergency departments are where a lot undiagnosed, high-risk patients are going to go,” they said.
The employee said after one of their shifts two weeks ago, they developed a cough and fever and decided to self-quarantine. It took them awhile to get tested. A lack of tests for the coronavirus has been a serious issue across the U.S. since the outbreak started.
“Even as a federal employee and an emergency room physician, it took me four days to get tested. It was appalling. I locked myself in my bedroom,” they said of their self-quarantine.
They said putting healthcare workers who are exposed to the virus in quarantine for 14 days won't work because not only does it put their own families at risk, but it leaves hospitals short-staffed.
“We have to preserve every single staff member we can.... We’re all dedicated and we’re going to go in and work, but we come home and we could expose our families and that is unimaginable,” they said. “So we need to come up with a criteria to prevent healthcare from workers from spreading the infection to others.”
One positive they noted was that America is realizing how serious this could become, using Italy as an example. Thus far the virus has caused 70 deaths nationwide, leading officials to declare a national emergency.
"We have finally woken up to the severity. It is going to be a mess for the next month or so,” they said. “Taking these drastic measures of forced social distancing are probably necessary because we’re not otherwise going to be able to slow down this transition to allow our systems to adapt.”