New York nurse describes coronavirus patient’s words before being intubated: ‘Who’s going to pay for it?’

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and therefore their health insurance

Andrew Naughtie
Thursday 09 April 2020 15:56 BST
Governor Andrew Cuomo says New York records its largest single-day jump in death toll

A nurse anaesthetist in a New York City hospital has described how a Covid-19 patient about to be intubated and placed on a ventilator asked him how the cost of his treatment would be paid for.

Derrick Smith described the patient’s words in a Facebook post. Alongside a picture of himself in scrubs, his face red with indentations from a protective mask, he recounted how the patient's worries about health insurance were at the front of his mind even as he fought for his life.

““Who’s going to pay for it?’

“Last words I’ll never forget – the response my patient gasped out (between labored breaths) to me and my team, after we explained that he needed to be intubated and placed on a ventilator. We then called his wife to have him speak to her for what was likely his last opportunity, as many patients do not recover once tubed.”

Quoting an article from news site TruthOut which argues that countries with universal health care systems have been “the fastest to slow the spread of the virus”, Mr Smith issues a stark verdict on what’s happening in his hospital and what the patient’s request says about the US.

“This situation is by far the worst thing I’ve witnessed in my collective 12 years of critical care and anesthesia. Next-level heartbreak – having to hear a dying patient use his last words to worry about healthcare finances.

“This country is truly a failed state, and it’s so sickening to witness firsthand, more blatantly than ever.”

As the coronavirus crisis continues to rage across the US, the ranks of those without health insurance are expected to grow dramatically. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, and many are thought to have already lost their employer-provided health insurance. Millions more are expected to follow.

While Donald Trump has now said that hospitals will be reimbursed at Medicare rates for treating uninsured patients, his administration has faced criticism for so far declining to reopen the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges, which would allow people currently not covered to obtain insurance before they contract coronavirus.

The US has now seen more than 14,000 deaths from Covid-19, with New York state still the hardest-hit. Governor Andrew Cuomo has been locked in a dispute with Mr Trump over how many ventilators New York City needs, saying that the city is “scrambling” to move ventilators to where they’re needed while the president claims he was “right” that the state needed far fewer than Mr Cuomo has demanded.

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