because of coronavirus. And in New York, where the number of coronavirus cases has soared, hospitals have been burning through about 40,000 masks a day — about 10 times the normal amount — and have begun limiting staff members to just one each day.
“If we run out of it, it’s like sending a soldier into war where everyone else has armor and we don’t have armor,” said Dr Joseph Habboushe, an emergency room physician at NYU Langone Medical Center.
Columbia University chief surgeon Dr Craig Smith wrote in a note to colleagues this week: “To think we could mimic Italy seemed risible a week ago. Not today.”
California is also scrambling to obtain protective gear for health care workers and first responders, reaching out worldwide and working with locals to ratchet up production as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep through the nation’s most populous state.
The state is looking at ways of acquiring some 1 billion sets of gloves, along with hundreds of millions of gowns, surgical masks, and face shields, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.
“It’s going to take an heroic effort,” Newsom said.
Without protective gear, doctors and nurses may be forced to choose between their jobs and their own health, and the health of their family members.
“I’ve got an immunocompromised husband. Without PPE I put him at risk every single day. If this is not sorted soon then I’m off,” one doctor in the United Kingdom told the Doctors’ Association UK.
“The government needs to protect frontline health workers and in return they will give 100%,” said Dr Rinesh Parmar, the group’s chair. “But the government hasn’t kept its side of the bargain with NHS staff by not having enough PPE available to safeguard the health of doctors and nurses.”
Some doctors have continued to work despite a lack of protective equipment, however.
In Madrid, HuffPost Spain spoke with two nurses aides at the Infanta Sofia Hospital, who said that they were making their own personal protective equipment, and that their colleagues in the ICU were overwhelmed.
“There are elderly people dying alone and some of the nurses break protocol to hold their hands,” one of the nurses said.
The hospitals in Madrid are so overcrowded that they have had to open a temporary care facility in the city’s fairgrounds.
In Italy, Marcello Natali, a 57-year-old doctor, tested positive for coronavirus while working in the town of Codogno, in the northern part of the country. As his condition worsened, he was transferred to a hospital in Milan for treatment, but he later died.
In an interview with Euronews, Natali said he had had to work without gloves.
“They have run out,” he said.
With reporting from HuffPost Italy, HuffPost Spain, HuffPost UK, HuffPost France, AP and Reuters.
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