Park Metropolis physician recollects April expertise treating COVID sufferers in New York: ‘Demise and dying in all places’
The province of Dr. Wing saw firsthand what happens when a hospital system is overrun by the COVID-19 pandemic when he volunteered for work in New York City in April. He’s the medical director of Intermountain Park City Hospital and wishes he could show people what happened in New York so they can understand the effects of the virus. As hospitals across Utah continue to fill, the province says capacity will remain in the intermountain system, but that trends need to be reversed.
Courtesy Intermountain Healthcare
The province of Dr. Wing was in New York City in April, part of a team that traveled to support the city’s overburdened medical system at the height of the inextinguishable image of the pandemic in America.
Semitrailer tractors parked in front of the hospitals with refrigerators running to keep the corpses cold. Mass graves. People who die in hospital corridors with no beds available and not enough staff to serve them.
As an ambulance, the province is used to seeing death. But what he saw in New York City was different, and with COVID-19 nearing capacity in Utah and the hospitals here, he is warning the public to follow health guidelines to prevent similar circumstances from developing here.
“I’ve seen and experienced things there that make you wish you could bring your memories to the mind of someone else who doesn’t believe that this is a legitimate disease, or the ‘deceitful’ as they say, so they can see how horrible this can be for individuals or families, “said Province, the medical director of Park City Hospital.
He served in one of the hardest hit emergency rooms in Manhattan, a hospital nicknamed “Dunkirk” because of the number of bodies there. He remembered something like a war zone.
“COVID has a sight, a sound, and a smell that I will never forget. See people drowning but not underwater but breathing like they are underwater. Patients can hear their oxygen saturation drop on a monitor. … I can’t describe the smell, but it’s the near death smell, ”he said. “And you have nurses and doctors who are stretched to the limit. My medical director there, the doctor in charge of the entire emergency room when I was there, took her own life. “
The situation in Utah is nowhere near as dire, the province said, but inquiries from health officials when asking the public to wear masks, maintain social distance, avoid large groups, and wash their hands are increasingly urgent.
Governor Gary Herbert’s government has effectively placed a mask mandate in 23 of Utah’s 29 counties, despite refusing to call it that. The state epidemiologist had moments of public outrage. As of Friday, more than 75% of the beds in the state’s intensive care unit will be filled with patients, according to the Summit County’s health director.
Despite recent warnings that health systems in the state are preparing for rationing, the province said the Intermountain Healthcare system is still able to care for patients and that officials will not curtail services or cancel so-called elective surgeries.
“We’re not rationing care now,” said the province. “What we see is if the numbers keep going up and if the public refuses to wear masks and social distancing and socially groom these groups of no more than 10 then we can get to the point where we care have to take care of the ration. “
He said that 80% hospital occupancy is a key figure for public health. In addition, the nurse-to-patient relationship could be lengthened, waiting times and bed availability could be affected.
“The rate of transmission of COVID is not only linear, but also exponential, and can rapidly increase from 75% (hospital occupancy) to 80% to 90% within a few days or weeks,” he said. “It’s really bed staff: we can have as many beds as we want, but if we don’t have nurses, they get sick, a figure of 60% (hospital occupancy), a figure of 70% is a lot more scary.”
According to the province, 20% to 30% of nurses across the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and have been forced into quarantine, adding an extra burden to the workforce who have already been asked to do so much.
“We are certainly tired physically and emotionally,” he said, adding that morale generally remains high at Park City Hospital. “I think some people want it to be a relay race. Pass the baton on to someone else to take over from here, but there is no one else.”
The province emphasized the importance of following public health guidelines in order to maintain capacity in Utah hospitals and serve the frontline health workers. He remembered his experiences in New York and his wish that they were not repeated here.
“What I saw there was death and dying everywhere. As an ambulance, I’m used to it, but not to the extent and level that I saw there, ”he said. “I was often the last person anyone saw before they died. Because of the visitor restrictions we had there … I would often call people at Facetime and hold the iPad in my hand so those family members could say goodbye to loved ones. You hang up, you hold the hand of their loved one until you feel them go by, and you move on to the next one. “
He said that nurses in general do not piss off the public about how to deal with a disease, pointing out that most people do not have nurse and doctor training or medical expertise.
“What we find frustrating is when they are educated, but they make it a political problem, refuse to wear masks, and spread it to other people. (That) increases the risk that we might possibly get it and go home to our families, ”he said. “… It’s not a political issue. I’ve taken care of as many Democrats as the Republicans there. “