Hospital policies have changed with the outbreak of COVID 19, all formed to protect the lives of the patients as well as the staff.
One such policy is having staff members and patients wear masks. “We wear masks and face shields for our protection and the patient’s protection. Every patient that walks in the hallway, or is taken for a test or a procedure, or is discharged home has to wear a mask,” Registered nurse Kim Zalar said.
A registered nurse on the cardiovascular unit, Zalar said, “It’s pretty scary to know that you could potentially be taking care of someone with the virus. Sometimes we get patients on our floor and they come in with chest pain or shortness of break. We take care of them like we normally do, and the next day we find out that they were transferred to the COVID unit for testing.”
One such patient was ruled out for corona virus, but was still very sick. “She was at the end of her life, and I called the COVID command center for the hospital to ask if her husband could come to be with her for the end of her life. They said, per policy, if someone is dying, one family member, per day, can come to visit for a brief amount of time. I clarified with them a brief amount of time and they said 15-20 minutes. We let the husband come and we gave him a mask, which we had to replace twice due to saturation with his tears. Her nurse and myself, the charge nurse, did not have the strength to go and tell him that he had to leave and maybe never see his wife again, so we let him stay for five hours. She was later transported to a hospice center outside of the hospital and the husband was able to be with her there,” Zalar said.
While the cardiovascular unit normally has 32 patients daily, they now have on average 9-12. “The main thing is not having our usual patients. All of our open heart patient surgeries are being postponed unless they are urgent or life threatening. Our heart attack patients are not coming because they are afraid to come to the hospital when there are COVID patients there,” Zalar said.
The delaying of selective surgeries and the low numbers of patients are causing hospitals to lose millions of dollars and forcing them to furlough staff members.