OhioHealth employee sounds alarm about coming patient surge: 'I don't think we're ready'

(WBNS)
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Health care workers all over Ohio are bracing for a surge of patients in the coming weeks.

One Columbus health care worker says a major hospital system in Columbus is not ready.

The OhioHealth employee 10TV spoke to is a front-line health care worker in a Columbus hospital.

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She spoke with 10TV on the condition of anonymity and says she is speaking out for the safety of her co-workers and patients.

They have all seen the news reports from hospitals in New York and fear what could be to come in Ohio.

"Every one of my co-workers, we're terrified. We're not real busy yet. We haven't seen that surge. I mean, we're definitely seeing patients, but we're not anywhere near New York, and we're making big mistakes. So, we're like, what the heck is going to happen during this surge? It's not going to get any better. So, the problem needs to be corrected now."

Hospitals all over Ohio and the country have raised concerns about not enough personal protective equipment, or PPE, for health care workers.

She says the problem she sees is inconsistent use of that PPE with patients that are assumed to be positive for COVID-19.

"The hospital line is that we're supposed to treat all emergencies as 'people under investigation.' And therefore don full PPE. But depending on the day, the time of day, the people, who's in charge, the area, it's always different."

When asked what the consequence of that inconsistency is, she said, "Well, the consequence could be — for instance, someone could come in as a drug overdose, and could be someone who is COVID positive, and so what would happen in that instance, is that part of the staff is going to be exposed to a positive person because they didn't don the proper PPE. And then, they're going to take care of patients, and they're going to spread the virus to other patients, who aren't positive, and their fellow co-workers."

She believes she has already been exposed.

"I have taken care of patients who have turned out positive, and I have taken care of them unprotected. And there's no notification system. No one has called me. And I can tell you, at Ohio State, if you're exposed, you're notified by the organization. And you have to self-monitor and you have to report it. You have to take your temperature every day, and report on symptoms every day whether you're at work or not."

"People are afraid of getting sick and dying, of course we all are," she said. "But most people are afraid to give it to their family — to their kids, their moms and dads. So what happens is you have to try to keep distance from your own family. And you really need support during this time, but you've got to keep your distance."

She says she and her coworkers consider OhioHealth among the best places to work in Columbus.

She says precautions are being taken — systems have been put in place — to protect staff and patients.

But there are critical gaps.

"I don't think we're ready. I mean no one can be ready for sure. But you've got to be the best you can be. And we're not being the best we can be. It's not that OhioHealth would mean to do that. It's not like they're doing that intentionally. But regardless of intention, it's still happening."

"I think people that are working in health care right now, this is your calling. You're the helpers. You're the people that... are brave and will help patients and will put your life on the line to help patients. But you want to feel that the administration is protecting you as best as they can. And right now, at OhioHealth, that's not happening."

10TV shared these concerns with OhioHealth.

Their response:

“This complaint is reflective of some of the anxiety that is unavoidable whenever there is an epidemic. Any OhioHealth associate who is concerned about his or her safety should contact the anonymous OhioHealth Ethics & Compliance hotline at 866-411-6181. We absolutely will address any issues people have.

We understand someone may have a concern and have been very proactive in taking steps to ensure the consistent safety of our workforce and the patients who visit us. For example:

  • We are following CDC guidelines on the use of personal protective equipment and make PPE available for providers when indicated and appropriate.
  • All staff are provided the opportunity to wear masks, not just in the emergency department, but throughout the hospital, at the beginning of each shift.
  • Patients are screened as they enter the hospital and are required to wear masks if they are symptomatic.
  • Our infection prevention experts are working closely with public health authorities to ensure detailed contact tracings are conducted for every patient who tests positive for COVID-19 and, as a matter of course, provide notification to any associate who has clinically significant contact as determined by that investigation."

Coronavirus: What you need to know

There are now 35,408 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 2,148 people have died from the virus and 6,413 were hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Breakdown of Ohio cases by county >>

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

10TV is committed to bringing you a FACTS NOT FEAR approach to our coronavirus reporting. You can count on 10TV to give you the latest developments and the impacts on you and your family. For complete coverage, visit: 10TV.com/coronavirus.

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