Tags: Coronavirus | Health Topics | Cold/Flu | london doctor | pandemic | elderly | vulnerable

London Doc: Staff Will Soon Choose Which Lives to Save

graphic shows a white facial mask shows the word coronavirus over it with a needle on the right side
A queue of people wait outside Sainsbury's supermarket in front of a Coronavirus information display as National Health Service staff and social care workers who show their NHS ID are allowed into a branch of Sainsbury's supermarket in London. (Matt Dunham/AP)

By    |   Monday, 23 March 2020 03:44 PM

A London doctor says her staff will soon be forced to choose which lives to save.

Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan told The Guardian "there's a palpable fear among staff for three reasons" amid the global coronavirus pandemic:

  1. Healthcare staff exposure to COVID-19: "Firstly, they're frightened for their own health and those of the people they love," she said.
  2. Staff ultimately having to choose which lives to save, because of a shortage of ventilators: "The second reason is that staff expect, very soon, potentially to have to make heart-wrenching choices about whose life can be saved if we don't have enough ventilators," she continued. "That goes counter to everything you’ve ever learned as a doctor or nurse – to make life-and-death decisions, where we could possibly have saved every one of those people, is unimaginable."
  3. Young, healthy people are now needing to be hospitalized and saved, sucking up more resources: "Third, the patterns described thus far for symptoms of coronavirus are not what we're now seeing in the emergency department," she added. "We're seeing young, previously very healthy people, who are ill in hospital. Some are in their 30s, and they need ventilators to stay alive."

The United Kingdom has 6,650 confirmed coronavirus cases to date, according to data collected by Worldometer.

"I've been an A&E doctor for 15 years, and I've never seen anything like this before," she told The Guardian. "The departments are quieter because people are staying away from hospitals, but the patients are sicker. We're seeing a distinct rise in the numbers coming in with respiratory symptoms, who are testing COVID-19 positive.

"On Sunday, very early in the morning, the entire resuscitation department, where the absolute sickest patients go, was full to capacity with patients with breathing difficulties. We had to move other very ill patients to the pediatric resuscitation area to keep them safe.

This is only set to get worse. We're seeing patients now who would have only contracted the virus two weeks ago. In the coming 10 days we expect the entire A&E department will be taken up with suspected COVID-19 patients."

The U.K. population is estimated to be more than 66 million people. New York, by comparison has 8.6 million, which is almost one-eighth the size.

New York state has 20,875 confirmed cases to date, which is greater than 300% more than the U.K. 

"Some patients are presenting with abdominal pain, which we hadn't heard of before," Allin-Khan told The Guardian. "A person can come in and say they have a stomach pain, and they're put in the 'green' area of the department – but then they mention they also have a cough.

"Everybody should be assumed to be COVID-positive until proven otherwise at this point."

New York has suffered 157 deaths of confirmed coronavirus patients. The U.K. 335, more than two times as many, despite being almost one-eighth the size.

"Some people are treating this as a holiday – but without correct distancing measures it's a disaster waiting to happen," Allin-Khan said. "When we are faced in the coming weeks with choices about who gets the last ventilator and who doesn't, it will be that young person who has gone out socializing, who has ignored advice, who get it. That means someone else's mother may not."

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A London doctor says her staff will soon be forced to choose which lives to save.
london doctor, pandemic, elderly, vulnerable
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2020-44-23
Monday, 23 March 2020 03:44 PM
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