Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 coronavirus deaths ‘if we do things almost perfectly’

https://www.yahoo.com/news/dr-birx-predicts-200-000-115800421.html

Dr. Birx predicts up to 200,000 U.S. coronavirus deaths 'if we do ...

The White House coronavirus response coordinator said Monday that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and projects 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths as a best case scenario.

In an interview on “TODAY,” Dr. Deborah Birx painted a grim message about the expected fatalities, echoing that they could hit more than 2 million without any measures, as coronavirus cases continue to climb throughout the country.

“I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5,000 cases very quickly,” Birx said.

“I think in some of the metro areas we were late in getting people to follow the 15-day guidelines,” she added.

Birx said the projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. deaths could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million is a worst case scenario if the country did “nothing” to contain the outbreak, but said even “if we do things almost perfectly,” she still predicts up to 200,000 U.S. deaths.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reiterated Monday on CNN that “I don’t want to see it, I’d like to avoid it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw 100,000 deaths.”

Politics

Birx said the best case scenario would be for “100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required, but we’re not sure that all of America is responding in a uniform way to protect one another,” referencing images circulating online of people still congregating in big groups and ignoring guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Birx was also on “Meet the Press” on Sunday warning that “no state, no metro area will be spared,” a message she repeated Monday. Even if metro or rural areas don’t see the virus in the community now, by the time it does appear, the outbreak will be significant, she added.

How long Americans will be expected to comply with measures, including socially distancing and sheltering in place, remains unclear in this growing pandemic after several states and larger cities began implementing measures over the past couple of weeks.

President Trump announced Sunday that the administration’s guidelines on social distancing have been extended until April 30. Trump said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing guidelines early could cause mass deaths. Now, Trump said he expects “great things to be happening” by June 1.

Birx said on Sunday that the choice to extend the guidelines had not been made lightly.

“We know it’s a huge sacrifice for everyone,” she added.

 

 

 

 

Nurse dies in New York hospital where workers are reduced to using trash bags as protective medical gear

https://www.businessinsider.com/kious-kelly-hospital-nurse-dies-trash-bags-2020-3?utmSource=twitter&utmContent=referral&utmTerm=topbar&referrer=twitter&fbclid=IwAR3BPkAbdFrHQBM1UiV3o23sIqDsBxkhLBNJ7kV9sCmqU3zpKndGKHc0gY8

Nurse dies in New York hospital where workers are reduced to using ...

A nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York died from COVID-19 after learning he was infected by the novel coronavirus almost two weeks ago. Protective medical gowns are in such short supply in the Mount Sinai system that some nurses have started to use Hefty-brand garbage bags instead, according to photos on social media.

The New York Post reported that Kious Kelly, an assistant nursing manager at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, died Tuesday. He was 48 years old.

His sister confirmed his death to the Post, saying that she was told he had been in the intensive-care unit but that he did not think it was serious. The Post did not specify how he contracted the virus.

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of a beloved member of our nursing staff,” Renatt Brodsky, a representative for the Mount Sinai Health System, told Business Insider in a statement. Brodsky did not provide any further details.

New York state has become the epicenter for the US’s coronavirus outbreak, with more than 33,000 infections and more than 360 deaths. In New York and other areas in the US with large outbreaks, healthcare workers are reporting shortages of personal protective equipment like masks, gowns, face shields, and gloves.

At Mount Sinai West, in the same hospital system where Kelly worked, nurses published a photo on social media showing them fashioning plastic trash bags into protective outfits, according to the Post.

“NO MORE GOWNS IN THE WHOLE HOSPITAL,” they wrote on Facebook. “NO MORE MASKS AND REUSING THE DISPOSABLE ONES … NURSES FIGURING IT OUT DURING COVID-19 CRISIS.” One nurse is seen holding a box of Hefty Strong 33-gallon bags, more commonly used for lining household trash cans.

 

 

 

Why the U.S. doesn’t have more hospital beds

https://www.axios.com/coronavrus-hospital-beds-shortage-63d0e1c3-de4b-4199-834c-477403cfaf06.html

Why the U.S. doesn't have enough hospital beds to deal with the ...

The shortage of hospital beds in the U.S. didn’t happen by accident. It’s a result of both market pressures and public policy.

Why it matters: The bed shortage is one of many factors complicating America’s response to the new coronavirus. But if we want to have more beds and critical equipment on hand for the next pandemic, the government will need to make it happen — and pay for it.

By the numbers: The U.S. has 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people, far fewer than other developed countries.

How it happened: Health care resources, including hospital beds, are allocated mainly by market dynamics, not public-health blueprints.

  • Over the last 50 years, a great deal of care has shifted away from inpatient hospital settings and into outpatient services.
  • The motivation was to help control costs and improve the quality of care, while making it more convenient for patients.

Government also worked to directly cut the number of U.S. hospital beds, believing in a rule called Roemer’s Law, which said that “a hospital bed built would be a hospital bed filled,” driving up costs.

  • The push to reduce beds was embodied in a 1974 law that set up a health planning system in every state. A central objective was to get the U.S. below three hospital beds per 1,000 people, the level many think is now too low today.
  • And though it was repealed under President Ronald Reagan, the broader push to reduce capacity continued in many states.

The bottom line: If we want to have surge capacity of hospital beds and equipment in place for the next crisis, and if we don’t want to push health care costs higher, hospitals will need to acquire extra beds and then leave that surge capacity largely unused until the next crisis.

  • That means Congress would have to dictate that capacity by law, decide which hospitals to put it in, and fund it, while increasing the strategic stockpile of equipment like ventilators, masks and other protective equipment at the same time.

 

 

 

 

Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines

Nurses Die, Doctors Fall Sick and Panic Rises on Virus Front Lines ...

The pandemic has begun to sweep through New York City’s medical ranks, and anxiety is growing among normally dispassionate medical professionals.

A supervisor urged surgeons at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in Manhattan to volunteer for the front lines because half the intensive-care staff had already been sickened by coronavirus.

“ICU is EXPLODING,” she wrote in an email.

A doctor at Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan described the unnerving experience of walking daily past an intubated, critically ill colleague in her 30s, wondering who would be next.

Another doctor at a major New York City hospital described it as “a petri dish,” where more than 200 workers had fallen sick.

Two nurses in city hospitals have died.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 30,000 people in New York City, is beginning to take a toll on those who are most needed to combat it: the doctors, nurses and other workers at hospitals and clinics. In emergency rooms and intensive care units, typically dispassionate medical professionals are feeling panicked as increasing numbers of colleagues get sick.

“I feel like we’re all just being sent to slaughter,” said Thomas Riley, a nurse at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, who has contracted the virus, along with his husband.

Medical workers are still showing up day after day to face overflowing emergency rooms, earning them praise as heroes. Thousands of volunteers have signed up to join their colleagues.

But doctors and nurses said they can look overseas for a dark glimpse of the risk they are facing, especially when protective gear has been in short supply.

In China, more than 3,000 doctors were infected, nearly half of them in Wuhan, where the pandemic began, according to Chinese government statistics. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who first tried to raise the alarm about Covid-19, eventually died of it.

In Italy, the number of infected heath care workers is now twice the Chinese total, and the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists has compiled a list of 50 who have died. Nearly 14 percent of Spain’s confirmed coronavirus cases are medical professionals.

New York City’s health care system is sprawling and disjointed, making precise infection rates among medical workers difficult to calculate. A spokesman for the Health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs New York City’s public hospitals, said the agency would not share data about sick medical workers “at this time.”

William P. Jaquis, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, said the situation across the country was too fluid to begin tracking such data, but he said he expected the danger to intensify.

“Doctors are getting sick everywhere,” he said.

Last week, two nurses in New York, including Kious Kelly, a 48-year-old assistant nurse manager at Mount Sinai West, died from the disease; they are believed to be the first known victims among the city’s medical workers. Health care workers across the city said they feared many more would follow.

Mr. Riley, the nurse at Jacobi, said when he looked at the emergency room recently, he realized he and his colleagues would never avoid being infected. Patients struggling to breathe with lungs that sounded like sandpaper had crowded the hospital. Masks and protective gowns were in short supply.

“I’m swimming in this,” he said he thought. “I’m pretty sure I’m getting this.”

His symptoms began with a cough, then a fever, then nausea and diarrhea. Days later, his husband became ill. Mr. Riley said both he and his husband appear to be getting better, but are still experiencing symptoms.

Like generals steadying their troops before battle, hospital supervisors in New York have had to rally, cajole and sometimes threaten workers.

“Our health care systems are at war with a pandemic virus,” Craig R. Smith, the surgeon-in-chief at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, wrote in an email to staff on March 16, the day after New York City shut down its school system to contain the virus. “You are expected to keep fighting with whatever weapons you’re capable of working.”

“Sick is relative,” he wrote, adding that workers would not even be tested for the virus unless they were “unequivocally exposed and symptomatic to the point of needing admission to the hospital.”

“That means you come to work,” he wrote. “Period.”

Arriving to work each day, doctors and nurses are met with confusion and chaos.

At a branch of the Montefiore hospital system in the Bronx, nurses wear their winter coats in an unheated tent set up to triage patients with symptoms, while at Elmhurst Hospital Center in Queens, patients are sometimes dying before they can be moved into beds.

The inviolable rules that once gave a sense of rhythm and harmony to even the busiest emergency rooms have in some cases been cast aside. Few things have caused more anxiety than shifting protocols meant to preserve a dwindling supply of protective gear.

When the pandemic first hit New York, medical workers changed gowns and masks each time they visited an infected patient. Then, they were told to keep their protective gear on until the end of their shift. As supplies became even more scarce, one doctor working on an intensive care unit said he was asked to turn in his mask and face shield at the end of his shift to be sterilized for future use. Others are being told to store their masks in a paper bag between shifts.

“It puts us in danger, it puts our patients in danger. I can’t believe in the United States that’s what’s happening,” said Kelley Cabrera, an emergency room nurse at Jacobi Medical Center.

An emergency room doctor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center put it more bluntly: “It’s literally, wash your hands a lot, cross your fingers, pray.”

Doctors and nurses fear they could be transmitting the virus to their patients, compounding the crisis by transforming hospitals into incubators for the virus. That has happened in Italy, in part because infected doctors struggle through their shifts, according to an article published by physicians at a hospital in Bergamo, a city in one of the hardest-hit regions.

Frontline hospital workers in New York are now required to take their temperature every 12 hours, though many doctors and nurses fear they could contract the disease and spread it to patients before they become symptomatic.

They also say it is a challenge to know when to come back to work after being sick. All medical workers who show symptoms, even if they are not tested, must quarantine for at least seven days and must be asymptomatic for three days before coming back to work.

But some employers have been more demanding than others, workers said.

Lillian Udell, a nurse at Lincoln Medical Center, another public hospital in the Bronx, said she was still weak and experiencing symptoms when she was pressured to return to work. She powered through a long shift that was so chaotic she could not remember how many patients she attended. By the time she returned home, the chills and the cough had returned.

“I knew it was still in me,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t myself.”

Christopher Miller, a spokesman for the Health and Hospitals Corporation, said the agency could not comment on Ms. Udell’s claim, but said its hospitals had “never asked health care workers who are sick and have symptoms of Covid-19 to continue to work or to come back to work.”

There is also the fear of bringing the disease home to spouses and children. Some medical workers said they were sleeping in different rooms from their partners and even wearing surgical masks at home. Others have chosen to isolate themselves from their families completely, sending spouses and children to live outside the city, or moving into hotels.

“I come home, I strip naked, put clothes in a bag and put them in the washer and take a shower,” one New York City doctor at a large public hospital said.

Because the pathogen has spread so widely, even medical workers not assigned directly to work with infected patients risk contracting the disease.

A gynecologist who works for the Mount Sinai hospital system said she had begun seeing women in labor who were positive for the coronavirus. Because she is not considered a front-line worker, she said, restrictions on protective gear are even more stringent than on Covid-19 units. She said she was not aware of any patients who had tested positive after contact with doctors or nurses, but felt it was only a matter of time.

“We’re definitely contaminating pregnant mothers that we’re assessing and possibly discharging home,” said the doctor, who spoke on condition on anonymity because her hospital had not authorized her to speak.

Mount Sinai said in a statement that it had faced equipment shortages like other hospitals, but added the issues had been solved in part by a large shipment of masks that arrived from China over the weekend. The hospital “moved mountains” to get the shipment, the statement said.

This week, the Health and Hospitals Corporation recommended transferring doctors and nurses at higher risk of infection — such as those who are older or with underlying medical conditions — from jobs interacting with patients to more administrative positions.

But Kimberly Marsh, a nurse at Westchester Medical Center outside New York City, said she has no intention of leaving the fight, even though she is a 53-year-old smoker with multiple sclerosis and on a medication that warns against getting near people with infections.

“It almost feels selfish,” she said, though she acknowledged that with two years before retirement she could not afford leave if she wanted to.

Even so, she said, the fear is palpable each time she steps into the emergency room. A nurse on her unit has already contracted the virus and one doctor is so scared he affixes an N95 mask to his face with tape at the beginning of each shift. Ms. Marsh said she sweats profusely in her protective gear because she is going through menopause and suffers from hot flashes.

“We all think we’re screwed,” she said. “I know without any doubt that I’m going to lose colleagues. There’s just no way around it.”

 

 

 

The U.S. Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators. The Mission Failed.

The U S Tried to Build a New Fleet of Ventilators The Mission ...

As the coronavirus spreads, the collapse of the project helps explain America’s acute shortage.

Thirteen years ago, a group of U.S. public health officials came up with a plan to address what they regarded as one of the medical system’s crucial vulnerabilities: a shortage of ventilators.

The breathing-assistance machines tended to be bulky, expensive and limited in number. The plan was to build a large fleet of inexpensive portable devices to deploy in a flu pandemic or another crisis.

Money was budgeted. A federal contract was signed. Work got underway.

And then things suddenly veered off course. A multibillion-dollar maker of medical devices bought the small California company that had been hired to design the new machines. The project ultimately produced zero ventilators.

That failure delayed the development of an affordable ventilator by at least half a decade, depriving hospitals, states and the federal government of the ability to stock up. The federal government started over with another company in 2014, whose ventilator was approved only last year and whose products have not yet been delivered.

Today, with the coronavirus ravaging America’s health care system, the nation’s emergency-response stockpile is still waiting on its first shipment. The scarcity of ventilators has become an emergency, forcing doctors to make life-or-death decisions about who gets to breathe and who does not.

The stalled efforts to create a new class of cheap, easy-to-use ventilators highlight the perils of outsourcing projects with critical public-health implications to private companies; their focus on maximizing profits is not always consistent with the government’s goal of preparing for a future crisis.

“We definitely saw the problem,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, who ran the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2009 to 2017. “We innovated to try and get a solution. We made really good progress, but it doesn’t appear to have resulted in the volume that we needed.”

The project — code-named Aura — came in the wake of a parade of near-miss pandemics: SARS, MERS, bird flu and swine flu.

Federal officials decided to re-evaluate their strategy for the next public health emergency. They considered vaccines, antiviral drugs, protective gear and ventilators, the last line of defense for patients suffering respiratory failure. The federal government’s Strategic National Stockpile had full-service ventilators in its warehouses, but not in the quantities that would be needed to combat a major pandemic.

In 2006, the Department of Health and Human Services established a new division, the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, with a mandate to prepare medical responses to chemical, biological and nuclear attacks, as well as infectious diseases.

In its first year in operation, the research agency considered how to expand the number of ventilators. It estimated that an additional 70,000 machines would be required in a moderate influenza pandemic.

The ventilators in the national stockpile were not ideal. In addition to being big and expensive, they required a lot of training to use. The research agency convened a panel of experts in November 2007 to devise a set of requirements for a new generation of mobile, easy-to-use ventilators.

In 2008, the government requested proposals from companies that were interested in designing and building the ventilators.

The goal was for the machines to be approved by regulators for mass development by 2010 or 2011, according to budget documents that the Department of Health and Human Services submitted to Congress in 2008. After that, the government would buy as many as 40,000 new ventilators and add them to the national stockpile.

The ventilators were to cost less than $3,000 each. The lower the price, the more machines the government would be able to buy.

Companies submitted bids for the Project Aura job. The research agency opted not to go with a large, established device maker. Instead it chose Newport Medical Instruments, a small outfit in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Newport, which was owned by a Japanese medical device company, only made ventilators. Being a small, nimble company, Newport executives said, would help it efficiently fulfill the government’s needs.

Ventilators at the time typically went for about $10,000 each, and getting the price down to $3,000 would be tough. But Newport’s executives bet they would be able to make up for any losses by selling the ventilators around the world.

“It would be very prestigious to be recognized as a supplier to the federal government,” said Richard Crawford, who was Newport’s head of research and development at the time. “We thought the international market would be strong, and there is where Newport would have a good profit on the product.”

Federal officials were pleased. In addition to replenishing the national stockpile, “we also thought they’d be so attractive that the commercial market would want to buy them, too,” said Nicole Lurie, who was then the assistant secretary for preparedness and response inside the Department of Health and Human Services. With luck, the new generation of ventilators would become ubiquitous, helping hospitals nationwide better prepare for a crisis.

The contract was officially awarded a few months after the H1N1 outbreak, which the C.D.C. estimated infected 60 million and killed 12,000 in the United States, began to taper off in 2010. The contract called for Newport to receive $6.1 million upfront, with the expectation that the government would pay millions more as it bought thousands of machines to fortify the stockpile.

Project Aura was Newport’s first job for the federal government. Things moved quickly and smoothly, employees and federal officials said in interviews.

Every three months, officials with the biomedical research agency would visit Newport’s headquarters. Mr. Crawford submitted monthly reports detailing the company’s spending and progress.

The federal officials “would check everything,” he said. “If we said we were buying equipment, they would want to know what it was used for. There were scheduled visits, scheduled requirements and deliverables each month.”

In 2011, Newport shipped three working prototypes from the company’s California plant to Washington for federal officials to review.

Dr. Frieden, who ran the C.D.C. at the time, got a demonstration in a small conference room attached to his office. “I got all excited,” he said. “It was a multiyear effort that had resulted in something that was going to be really useful.”

In April 2012, a senior Health and Human Services official testified before Congress that the program was “on schedule to file for market approval in September 2013.” After that, the machines would go into production.

Then everything changed.

The medical device industry was undergoing rapid consolidation, with one company after another merging with or acquiring other makers. Manufacturers wanted to pitch themselves as one-stop shops for hospitals, which were getting bigger, and that meant offering a broader suite of products. In May 2012, Covidien, a large medical device manufacturer, agreed to buy Newport for just over $100 million.

Covidien — a publicly traded company with sales of $12 billion that year — already sold traditional ventilators, but that was only a small part of its multifaceted businesses. In 2012 alone, Covidien bought five other medical device companies, in addition to Newport.

Newport executives and government officials working on the ventilator contract said they immediately noticed a change when Covidien took over. Developing inexpensive portable ventilators no longer seemed like a top priority.

Newport applied in June 2012 for clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to market the device, but two former federal officials said Covidien had demanded additional funding and a higher sales price for the ventilators. The government gave the company an additional $1.4 million, a drop in the bucket for a company Covidien’s size.

Government officials and executives at rival ventilator companies said they suspected that Covidien had acquired Newport to prevent it from building a cheaper product that would undermine Covidien’s profits from its existing ventilator business.

Some Newport executives who worked on the project were reassigned to other roles. Others decided to leave the company.

“Up until the time the company sold, I was really happy and excited about the project,” said Hong-Lin Du, Newport’s president at the time of its sale. “Then I was assigned to a different job.”

In 2014, with no ventilators having been delivered to the government, Covidien executives told officials at the biomedical research agency that they wanted to get out of the contract, according to three former federal officials. The executives complained that it was not sufficiently profitable for the company.

The government agreed to cancel the contract. The world was focused at the time on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The research agency started over, awarding a new contract for $13.8 million to the giant Dutch company Philips. In 2015, Covidien was sold for $50 billion to another huge medical device company, Medtronic. Charles J. Dockendorff, Covidien’s former chief financial officer, said he did not know why the contract had fallen apart. “I am not aware of that issue,” he said in a text message.

Robert J. White, president of the minimally invasive therapies group at Medtronic who worked at Covidien during the Newport acquisition, initially said he had no recollection of the Project Aura contract. A Medtronic spokeswoman later said that Mr. White was under the impression that the contract had been winding down before Covidien bought Newport.

In a statement Sunday night, after the article was published, Medtronic said, “The prototype ventilator, developed by Newport Medical, would not have been able to meet the specifications required by the government, nor at the price required.” Medtronic said that one problem was that the machine was not going to be usable with newborns.

It wasn’t until last July that the F.D.A. signed off on the new Philips ventilator, the Trilogy Evo. The government ordered 10,000 units in December, setting a delivery date in mid-2020.

As the extent of the spread of the new coronavirus in the United States became clear, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, revealed on March 15 that the stockpile had 12,700 ventilators ready to deploy. The government has since sped up maintenance to increase the number available to 16,660 — still fewer than a quarter of what officials years earlier had estimated would be required in a moderate flu pandemic.

Last week, the Health and Human Services Department contacted ventilator makers to see how soon they could produce thousands of machines. And it began pressing Philips to speed up its planned shipments.

The stockpile is “still awaiting delivery of the Trilogy Evo,” a Health and Human Services spokeswoman said. “We do not currently have any in inventory, though we are expecting them soon.”

 

 

 

 

White House coronavirus coordinator: All governors and mayors need to ‘prepare like New York is preparing now’

https://thehill.com/homenews/sunday-talk-shows/490052-white-house-coronavirus-coordinator-officials-are-asking-every

Deansboro, NY Coronavirus - News Break Deansboro, NY

The White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday that the administration is “asking every single governor and every single mayor to prepare like New York is preparing now.”

Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that state and city leaders need to know where each hospital in their jurisdiction is located, where the surgical centers are, where “every piece of equipment is in the state” and how to move equipment around the state “based on need.”

“So it’s not just what you have inside your doors today. It’s how you can surge and move things around,” she said. “We know this epidemic moves in waves. Each city will have its own epidemic curve. And so we can move between states, we can move within states, to meet the needs of everyone.”

But Birx emphasized that states and metro areas need to react because of the quickly increasing number of cases and deaths across the country.

“No state, no metro area will be spared, and the sooner we react and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they put in full mitigation, at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need, then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans,” she said.

Dr. Deborah Birx says “no metro area will be spared” of the coronavirus outbreak.

Dr. Birx: “The sooner we react and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they have put in full mitigation … then we’ll be able to move forward.”

When NBC’s Chuck Todd questioned how states would go about obtaining new medical equipment, she said the federal government is “working very hard” to locate and place ventilators. 

“But we need states at the same time to look where all of their ventilators are, including outpatient surgical center,” she said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has taken direct actions to combat the spread of the coronavirus initiating a stay-at-home order and working with the federal government to obtain more ventilators and temporary hospitals. The state has been hit hard by the pandemic with more than 52,300 cases and more than 880 deaths.

The president considered implementing a quarantine for New York’s tri-state area but ended up issuing a travel advisory for the area Saturday.

 

 

 

 

Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/25/coronavirus-patients-do-not-resucitate/?utm_campaign=wp_post_most&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_most

Image result for Hospitals consider universal do-not-resuscitate orders for coronavirus patients

Worry that ‘all hands’ responses may expose doctors and nurses to infection prompts debate about prioritizing the survival of the many over the one.

Hospitals on the front lines of the pandemic are engaged in a heated private debate over a calculation few have encountered in their lifetimes — how to weigh the “save at all costs” approach to resuscitating a dying patient against the real danger of exposing doctors and nurses to the contagion of coronavirus.

The conversations are driven by the realization that the risk to staff amid dwindling stores of protective equipment — such as masks, gowns and gloves — may be too great to justify the conventional response when a patient “codes,” and their heart or breathing stops.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago has been discussing a do-not-resuscitate policy for infected patients, regardless of the wishes of the patient or their family members — a wrenching decision to prioritize the lives of the many over the one.

Richard Wunderink, one of Northwestern’s intensive-care medical directors, said hospital administrators would have to ask Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker for help in clarifying state law and whether it permits the policy shift.

“It’s a major concern for everyone,” he said. “This is something about which we have had lots of communication with families, and I think they are very aware of the grave circumstances.”

Officials at George Washington University Hospital in the District say they have had similar conversations, but for now will continue to resuscitate covid-19 patients using modified procedures, such as putting plastic sheeting over the patient to create a barrier. The University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle, one of the country’s major hot spots for infections, is dealing with the problem by severely limiting the number of responders to a contagious patient in cardiac or respiratory arrest.

Several large hospital systems — Atrium Health in the Carolinas, Geisinger in Pennsylvania and regional Kaiser Permanente networks — are looking at guidelines that would allow doctors to override the wishes of the coronavirus patient or family members on a case-by-case basis due to the risk to doctors and nurses, or a shortage of protective equipment, say ethicists and doctors involved in those conversations. But they would stop short of imposing a do-not-resuscitate order on every coronavirus patient. The companies declined to comment.

Lewis Kaplan, president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and a University of Pennsylvania surgeon, described how colleagues at different institutions are sharing draft policies to address their changed reality.

“We are now on crisis footing,” he said. “What you take as first-come, first-served, no-holds-barred, everything-that-is-available-should-be-applied medicine is not where we are. We are now facing some difficult choices in how we apply medical resources — including staff.”

The new protocols are part of a larger rationing of lifesaving procedures and equipment — including ventilators — that is quickly becoming a reality here as in other parts of the world battling the virus. The concerns are not just about health-care workers getting sick but also about them potentially carrying the virus to other patients in the hospital.

R. Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin-Madison bioethicist, said that while the idea of withholding treatments may be unsettling, especially in a country as wealthy as ours, it is pragmatic. “It doesn’t help anybody if our doctors and nurses are felled by this virus and not able to care for us,” she said. “The code process is one that puts them at an enhanced risk.”

Wunderink said all of the most critically ill patients in the 12 days since they had their first coronavirus case have experienced steady declines rather than a sudden crash. That allowed medical staff to talk with families about the risk to workers and how having to put on protective gear delays a response and decreases the chance of saving someone’s life.

A consequence of those conversations, he said, is that many family members are making the difficult choice to sign do-not-resuscitate orders.

Code blue

Health-care providers are bound by oath — and in some states, by law — to do everything they can within the bounds of modern technology to save a patient’s life, absent an order, such as a DNR, to do otherwise. But as cases mount amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, hospitals are beginning to implement emergency measures that will either minimize, modify or completely stop the use of certain procedures on patients with covid-19.

Some of the most anxiety-provoking minutes in a health-care worker’s day involve participating in procedures that send virus-laced droplets from a patient’s airways all over the room.

These include endoscopies, bronchoscopies and other procedures in which tubes or cameras are sent down the throat and are routine in ICUs to look for bleeds or examine the inside of the lungs.

Changing or eliminating those protocols is likely to decrease some patients’ chances for survival. But hospital administrators and doctors say the measures are necessary to save the most lives.

The most extreme of these situations is when a patient, in hospital lingo, “codes.”

When a code blue alarm is activated, it signals that a patient has gone into cardiopulmonary arrest and typically all available personnel — usually somewhere around eight but sometimes as many as 30 people — rush into the room to begin live-saving procedures without which the person would almost certainly perish.

“It’s extremely dangerous in terms of infection risk because it involves multiple bodily fluids,” explained one ICU physician in the Midwest, who did not want her name used because she was not authorized to speak by her hospital.

Fred Wyese, an ICU nurse in Muskegon, Mich., describes it like a storm:

A team of nurses and doctors, trading off every two minutes, begin the chest compressions that are part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. Someone punctures the neck and arms to access blood vessels to put in new intravenous lines. Someone else grabs a “crash cart” stocked with a variety of lifesaving medications and equipment ranging from epinephrine injectors to a defibrillator to restart the heart.

As soon as possible, a breathing tube will be placed down the throat and the person will be hooked up to a mechanical ventilator. Even in the best of times, a patient who is coding presents an ethical maze; there’s often no clear cut answer for when there’s still hope and when it’s too late.

In the process, heaps of protective equipment is used — often many dozens of gloves, gowns, masks, and more.

Bruno Petinaux, chief medical officer at George Washington University Hospital, said the hospital has had a lot of discussion about how — and whether — to resuscitate covid-19 patients who are coding.

“From a safety perspective you can make the argument that the safest thing is to do nothing,” he said. “I don’t believe that is necessarily the right approach. So we have decided not to go in that direction. What we are doing is what can be done safely.”

However, he said, the decision comes down to a hospital’s resources and “every hospital has to assess and evaluate for themselves.” It’s still early in the outbreak in the Washington area, and GW still has sufficient equipment and manpower. Petinaux said he cannot rule out a change in protocol if things get worse.

GW’s procedure for responding to coronavirus patients who are coding includes using a machine called a Lucas device, which looks like a bumper, to deliver chest compressions. But the hospital has only two. If the Lucas devices are not readily accessible, doctors and nurses have been told to drape plastic sheeting — the 7-mil kind available at Home Depot or Lowe’s — over the patient’s body to minimize the spread of droplets and then proceed with chest compressions. Because the patient would presumably be on a ventilator, there is no risk of suffocation.

In Washington state which had the nation’s first covid-19 cases, UW Medicine’s chief medical officer, Tim Dellit, said the decision to send in fewer doctors and nurses to help a coding patient is about “minimizing use of PPE as we go into the surge.” He said the hospital is monitoring health-care workers’ health closely. So far, the percentage of infections among those tested is less than in the general population, which, he hopes, means their precautions are working.

‘It is a nightmare’

Bioethicist Scott Halpern at the University of Pennsylvania is the author of one widely circulated model guideline being considered by many hospitals. In an interview, he said a blanket stop to resuscitations for infected patients is too “draconian” and may end up sacrificing a young person who is otherwise in good health. However, health-care workers and limited protective equipment cannot be ignored.

“If we risk their well-being in service of one patient, we detract from the care of future patients, which is unfair,” he said.

Halpern’s document calls for two physicians, the one directly taking care of a patient and one who is not, to sign off on do-not-resuscitate orders. They must document the reason for the decision, and the family must be informed but does not have to agree.

Wyese, the Michigan ICU nurse, said his own hospital has been thinking about these issues for years but still is unprepared.

“They made us do all kinds of mandatory education and fittings and made it sound like they are prepared,” he said. “But when it hits the fan, they don’t have the supplies so the plans they had in place aren’t working.”

Over the weekend, Wyese said, a suspected covid-19 patient was rushed in and put into a negative pressure room to prevent the virus spread. In normal times, a nurse in full hazmat-type gear would sit with the patient to care for him, but there was little equipment to spare. So Wyese had to monitor him from the outside. Before he walked inside, he said, he would have to put on a face shield, N95 mask, and other equipment and slather antibacterial foam on his bald head as the hospital did not have any more head coverings. Only one powered air-purifying respirator or PAPR was available for the room and others nearby that could be used when performing an invasive procedure — but it was 150 feet away.

While he said his hospital’s policy still called for a full response to patients whose heart or breathing stopped, he worried any efforts would be challenging, if not futile.

“By the time you get all gowned up and double-gloved the patient is going to be dead,” he said. “We are going to be coding dead people. It is a nightmare.”