‘We’re supposed to be a first-world country’: Doctor leaks video from packed ward of New York hospital amid coronavirus surge

Footage shows Queens hospital crammed with ICU patients as staff run out of ventilators

Cuomo hits back at Trump ventilator claim

As New York City struggles to cope with the surging number of Covid-19 cases, a doctor has released footage of the dire conditions inside her Queens hospital – raising the alarm about the scale of the epidemic and the shortage of critical equipment needed to save lives.

Dr Colleen Smith works at Elmhurst Hospital, which this week saw 13 coronavirus-related deaths in a single day. The hospital has begun transferring out non-Covid patients to other hospitals in order to clear space for the sheer number of people arriving needing urgent treatment.

In the film, which she released to the New York Times, Dr Smith walks through a packed ICU unit, saying “all the patients that you see, they all have Covid. It feels like it’s too little too late. We knew it was coming.”

“Today is kind of getting worse and worse. We had to get a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. We are right now scrambling to try and get a few additional ventilators, or even CPAP machines. If we got CPAP machines, we could free up ventilators for patients who need them.”

New York is struggling to close a serious and escalating shortfall in ventilator machines. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said the state needs tens of thousands more – a request Donald Trump has dismissed as excessive.

In her video, Dr Smith shows five new ventilators received by the hospital, saying it needed many more. “We now have these five vents – unless people die, I suspect we’ll be back to needing to beg for ventilators again in another day or two.”

New York City’s hospitals are struggling not just to treat patients but to protect health workers themselves. Kious Jordan Kelly, a 48-year-old nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, died on 24 March after working directly with coronavirus patients. Pictures have emerged of staff at the hospital using inadequate protective equipment, and even plastic rubbish bags.

Dr Smith’s video from Elmhurst captures both the scale of what’s happening now and the alarmingly steep trajectory along which the epidemic is moving. Among the changes she is seeing as the epidemic progresses, she says, is the shifting demographic of the patients entering hospital.

“Many of the young people who are getting sick don’t smoke, they’re healthy, they have no comorbidities … they’re just young, regular people between the ages of 30 and 50 who you would not expect to get this sick.”

Based on what she’s seeing, Dr Smith says, the prognosis for New York’s health services and its sickened people is dire.

“I don’t have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients. And it’s America. And we’re supposed to be a first-world country.

“I don’t really care if I get in trouble for speaking to the media. I want people to know that this is bad, people are dying, we don’t have the tools that we need in the emergency department and in the hospital to take care of them.” At this point, she begins to cry. “And it’s really hard.”

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