Doctor says medical workers are facing abuse from coronavirus patients

A doctor who manages a Big Apple-based chain of urgent care centers described a disturbing situation that his medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic have had to endure – patients spitting and hurling verbal abuse at them.

Dr. J.D. Zipkin, associate medical director of Northwell Health – GoHealth Urgent Care, offered a grim picture of the crush of COVID-19 patients across the city.

“I describe it in two ways, one, we’re drinking from the fire hydrant and the other way to describe it is, everything’s on fire and the fire extinguishers are also on fire,” Zipkin told Reuters.

But “what adds to the complexity,” he added, are patients who are “hostile to our front desk.”

“We’ve had people trash our lobbies, cursing, spitting, coughing on the faces of my employees, if they don’t get what they want. We’ve had to ramp up security. It’s a whole deal,” Zipkin said.

“I am personally the type of person who runs towards the fire to help. So yeah, these are absolutely grueling hours and I haven’t been this sleep-deprived in a long while, but there’s also a deep sense of purpose that kind of keeps me going,” he said.

“I’ve had a lot of my providers end their shifts in tears. It’s more than any of us signed up for.”

Dr. Jennifer Haythe, a critical care cardiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, described the impact on families not allowed to visit their loved ones amid the crisis.

“I think there’s a lot of emotional burden, that the families can’t be there with them, that people are dying relatively rapidly, especially this older age group,” she said.

“For me personally, I find that I’m pretty… you know, I wake up, I’m on, I’m on all day and I’m off. And I find that when I feel more overwhelmed is either at night, now I’m alone without my family, or when I wake up in the morning and I realize like, this is reality. It’s not a dream,” Haythe said.

“I’m not, you know, waking up and it’s all gone. And then I find myself feeling more emotional. But I think we’re all operating at this very high-stress level, high cortisol level, and, you know, every now and then, you come down from that and it hits you.”

The doctor emphasized the importance of having everyone do their part to keep medical workers safe.

“Health-care workers are not an unlimited resource. We get sick, too. And at a certain point, we’re gonna have a problem if the doctors aren’t well and can’t take care of people,” she said.

“So we need to protect all the people that are in the fight by staying home and staying far apart from other people.”

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