David J. Phillipas / AP
“Last week at my hospital was the deadliest week I’ve ever lived in my life.”
The words of a Houston doctor treating COVID-19 patients illustrate the harsh reality that many U.S. medical systems now face.
Joseph Varon is the chief emergency officer at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. Harris County, where Houston is located, has the fifth largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in any U.S. county. More than 1,200 people in the county died.
“I signed more death certificates last week than I had in my entire life.” The hero tells NPR Steve Inskeep. Morning edition.
For the past four months, the Hero wakes up every day at dawn and drives to the hospital, where he spends six to 12 hours on the tour before seeing new receptions. When he returned home, he slept for a maximum of two hours a night. “I try to sleep, but people call me endless,” he says.
The hero manages a large team of people who are both exhausted and scared.
“Our hospital employs over 300 doctors and only three or four of us go to the COVID department,” says Varon. “And I’m there most of the time. People are afraid to join COVID departments and I can’t force them to enter. That’s one thing I can’t do, because working in a COVID division is an inherent risk.”
Here are excerpts from his interviews:
Is your unit ever overwhelmed?
Every day. I mean, it was crazy. The last few weeks have been overwhelmed. I mean, I can have beds, but I don’t have staff. You know, my nurses are exhausted. They are tired. These are individuals who, say, work three times a week, and try to work six to seven times a week themselves. I mean, they’re both physically and emotionally drained, because if you look at the last three weeks, where our mortality is highest, it’s scary and it drains you emotionally.
If the boss calls you and says he really wants to renovate the schools, but he wants to know if your hospital can fix this on the spot, are there any additional cases you would tell him?
Absolutely not. There is no way our hospitals can handle this. Not only my hospital, no hospital could fix it because it could be a really big influx. To give an idea alone, one person can infect up to 52 people per hour. … You can get into a serious situation.
We have informed many health experts who are essentially claiming that the national strategy to combat COVID has so far failed and it is time to do so. Let’s get back to where we were in March, close everything and start all over again. Is that bad?
I mean, you can’t close a city, a state, a country without an education component. You know, when we closed the city in April, it closes and then everyone gets stuck in the cabin. And the day we open the city, everyone goes out, people go to the beach, people go to the bars. They don’t care. I mean, they fill it out.
If you are going to close the city, you should have an education component that should be implemented. Coercive Measures: If I tell you to wear a mask, you are going to wear a mask. Because when you wear a mask, you don’t do it to protect yourself. You do this to protect the other person. Honestly, as Americans, we can do much better than what we are doing right now.