COVID-19: US healthcare system, one of the best in world, under deep stress

Washington: The US healthcare system, considered to be the best in the world, is under deep stress due to the coronavirus outbreak with medical professionals expecting thousands of patients in need of urgent care in the coming days, even as soccer stadiums, convention centres and horse racetracks are being converted into makeshift hospitals.

The Trump administration has marshalled all its resources to handle the alarming situation. It has sought the help of retired doctors to treat the growing number of patients. The Army Corps of Engineers is busy building makeshift hospitals across the country on a war footing.

The health situation in New York, which is home to some of the best hospitals and has a large concentration of doctors, specialists and hospital beds, is under deep stress with many hospitals resorting to what they call rationing care.

Health officials fear a similar situation could be in various metropolitan cities across America as COVID-19 spreads like wildfire.

Anticipating a large flow of infected people to hospitals in the coming days and weeks, cities after cities have been rushing to make arrangements for thousands of additional beds, ventilators and other medical equipment.

The Army has been roped in which is constructing makeshift hospitals. Convention centres and indoor stadiums are being turned into hospitals.

“Some of our sickest patients with COVID19 really need dialysis, but we don’t have enough machines. We are actively rationing care – something I thought I would never see in our healthcare system… It is heartbreaking to have end-of-life discussions with family members. No part of me was prepared to convey that a family member can’t say goodbye,” wrote Indian-American Prakriti Gaba, an internal medicine resident in New York city.

“That their loved ones would have to be alone during their final moments. I cannot imagine how they feel… how painful it is…,” she said in a series of tweets.

Last night in the ICU of a New York City hospital, Gaba wrote that she cared for 20 patients who were all on breathing machines due to COVID-19.

Some of them were really young in 20s, she said, adding that everyone is extremely sick but sicker patients keep flooding in.

“We are really feeling the strain. We don’t have enough ICU beds. Many patients are being intubated as soon as they show up to the emergency room. We are doing our best to take care of them on regular floor beds and in the ER itself. But it is HARD.

“Hospital staff are exhausted and honestly – scared. Our healthcare system is on survival mode,” Gaba wrote.

Similar stories and comments appeared from the doctors in New York, while ethics committee of various hospitals across the nations are reportedly not only discussing but also developing an action plan and policy framework as to what would be their priorities if they are flooded with COVID-19 patients with limited number of beds and ventilators.

In the next two months, health officials are expecting millions of Americans with thousands in need of urgent care and ICU facilities.

In New York, the Army converted the Javits convention center into a 2,900-bed hospital in just four days. Two 1,000-bed hospitals are coming up in New York again. This is in addition to the massive 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort being sent to New York from Virginia. Another 1,000-bed naval ship hospital NSS Mercy has been deployed in Los Angeles.

The Army is building a 3,000-bed hospital at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago. General Todd Semonite said they have identified 114 sites in all 50 states to construct hospitals if need be.

In Miami, construction crew started assembling a 250-bed hospital at a fairground. A soccer field was being converted into a hospital in Seattle.

CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle is being converted into a hospital for people who don’t have the coronavirus so as to ease the burden of hospitals.

Best Gen Modular, known for building modular structures like hotels, told a local news channel in Rapid city that it aims to build 5,000 hospital rooms in about 45 days in four locations in the country. The company said it can produce 112 hospital rooms in just one day.

Mount Sinai Hospital in New York said it is working with a humanitarian aid organisation to set up a field hospital in Central Park to help house the continuing influx of patients. The tent hospital in central park with 70 regular beds and 10 ICU beds is expected to open on Tuesday.

A horse racetrack in Queens is being converted into a 1,000-bed hospital.

“Aqueduct Racetrack will serve as a safe haven for those recovering from this virus,” New York Racing Association CEO and president Dave O’Rourke said in a statement.

Grand Valley State University building in downtown Grand Rapids is being used to create a makeshift hospital to treat coronavirus patients.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Sunday that the Los Angeles Convention Center is being converted into a field hospital to help relieve the pressure. Convention Centers in Houston and Dallas too are being converted into hospital.

Reflecting the scarcity of resources, a news report said that healthcare workers at the Miami Veterans Administration Hospital are being told to reuse one surgical mask for a week at a time. Healthcare workers in hospitals in Illinois said they are not getting to nurses fast enough, CBS news reported.

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