‘I feel like a sheep going to slaughter’: New York doctor begs Trump to provide vital coronavirus equipment

Medics protest as hospitals at the centre of US outbreak close to being overwhelmed

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 03 April 2020 14:29
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New York doctors protest for lack of PPE amid coronavirus emergency

Medics overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases have protested outside their New York hospital to raise the alarm about the lack of equipment to protect against the virus and prevent them potentially spreading it to others.

Speaking in front of a crowd outside Montefiore Medical Centre in the Bronx, Dr Laura Uick described a lethal situation putting both doctors and patients at risk.

"Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter. My colleagues and I are writing our last will and testament,” she said.

“I am 28 years old. We fear that we may not survive this pandemic and yet we show up every day to this hospital to take care of our community.”

A colleague, nurse Benny Matthew, drove home the seriousness of the situation: “We are transmitting the disease to our family members, the patients who are negative for Covid-19, and we are spreading this disease to the community from this great hospital.”

New York City, which has become the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in the US, is struggling to source enough personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard its doctors and nurses, even as its hospital system faces the worst crisis in its recent history.

The US government’s stockpile of protective equipment is reportedly nearly depleted, and some states have received only a fraction of the masks they have requested. The Trump administration has frozen coronavirus aid shipments to other countries after it emerged the US was sending masks to Thailand despite shortages on American soil.

These missteps have contributed to the crisis in New York. Without fresh supplies of PPE, including masks, visors and gowns, many doctors and nurses have fallen ill, some of them fatally.

A doctor at a hospital in the New York borough of Queens recently released a video showing desperate conditions in which she and her colleagues are having to care for patients. In it, she described having to use the same single-use protective mask for days at a time.

The city is so overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases that some hospitals are turning away patients with other conditions. Refrigerated trucks have been brought in to serve as mortuaries, and a field hospital has been constructed in Central Park. The US Navy has dispatched a hospital ship, USNS Comfort, which is now moored in New York Harbour to provide extra capacity; however, it is so far caring for only a handful of patients.

At the Bronx protest, Dr Uick pointed the finger uncompromisingly at the government.

“This is a man-made problem and we need a man-made solution," she said. "We are told that they are searching for more PPE. Today, I stand with the nurses to call upon Donald Trump, upon our local and our hospital leadership to stop looking for PPE that doesn’t exist and start producing it. We are past the point of last resort.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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