COVID getting out of hand — Health care a castle made of sand
Editor's note: Over one million people have died from COVID in the U.S., according to statistics from the NBC. And the real death toll could be higher. The medical staff are stretched thin, and they have to ration limited medical resources. Is it the nation that claimed "all men are created equal?"
Julie Atkins has worked in nursing for more than 30 years, but the overcrowded ICU at her hospital is something she has never experienced. She said, "As soon as we move one out, it's gonna be filled almost immediately with another patient. We have people going above and beyond, but they are exhausted, just exhausted."
Dr. Harbaksh Sangha of Missouri's Lake Regional Health works a 12 to 14 hour shift looking after COVID-19 patients. He said, "People are burning out. The burnout is very real."
Nicole Atherton, a nurse at Singing River's Ocean Springs Hospital, not only suffers from physical fatigue, but her psychological burden has also been increasingly intolerable. She said, "So to watch someone suffer for weeks, unable to eat, unable to drink, struggling for every breath… It changes you."
Making it worse has been the severe shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE, that the U.S. has experienced since early 2020. Some have even had to rely on college graduation gowns for protection.
Nathaniel Moore is the sponsor of Gowns 4 Good. He said, "To hear these personal stories of people on the front lines who have nothing, who are begging for gowns, begging for any support that we can offer them as fast as possible."
Widespread stress and burnout, health and safety issues, depression and work-related post-traumatic stress disorder... As a result, nurses are quitting in droves all across the U.S., with 62% of hospitals reporting nurse vacancy rates higher than 7.5%.
Rising demand and shrinking supply are forcing many U.S. hospitals to pay top dollar to get that much-needed help. If they can afford it, of course.
The country's health care relies increasingly on travel nurses, who can fill in when needed – at a price. Up to a whopping $5,000 or more a week. It weighs down on those hospitals that provide health care to the bulk of uninsured, low-income patients.
J. Robin Moon is a social epidemiologist. She said, "Temp staffing agencies means privatization of nursing workforce is happening, so private versus public, so it's going to even further drive a wedge between the haves and have nots in terms of access to health care."
And to add insult to injury, some U.S. hospitals have even been forced to ration health care provisions. Nichole Atherton said, "We've had situations here with COVID, with people with critical, with two people starting to go bad at once. And you have to decide which room you run to... It's a hard decision to make."
Health care rationing has always been a reality in the U.S. And it's de facto rationing when patients are discriminated against because they can't pay out-of-pocket costs or simply because they live in rural, remote communities.
However, according to Kaiser Health News, some of the richest nonprofit hospital systems raked in millions in surplus in 2020 due to lopsided federal health care bailout grants; a recipe for disaster as richer hospitals got more and poorer got less.
Resources have overall been limited and rationed. According to The Atlantic, "Within every social class and educational tier, Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous people died at higher rates than white people." Is this the society that claims that "all men are created equal" in its Declaration of Independence?
Editors: Liang Zhiqiang, Yang Yutong
Designer: Qi Haiming
Copy editor: Jacques Fourrier
Producer: Wang Ying
Chief editor: Li Shouen
Supervisor: Mei Yan
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