‘Choosing Who Lives and Who Dies’: Doctor in Spain Says People Dying as Hospitals ‘Overcrowded,’ Lacking Sufficient Ventilators

Photo Credit: Jyn Meyer

MADRID — A doctor in Spain says that hospital systems in Madrid are so inundated with coronavirus cases that staff are now making the horrid decision to reserve ventilators for those under 65 because of a lack of sufficient resources.

“The situation in Madrid … is absolutely dramatic,” the doctor said in a video recorded by a gentleman moved to tears over the matter. “There are way too many patients per doctors and nurses. There are no materials, no space, no ventilators.”

“[A] lot of patients have to be sedated and held by the hand since families can’t be by their side comforting them as they die,” she explained, referring to the fact that COVID-19 is a contagion.

The doctor said that ventilators are being released “for people under 65” and that it is hard facing the reality that everyone can’t be treated.

“We’re told to put on a brave face, fill up with courage, and go to work knowing that you are going to have to let many people die,” she stated. “Cry at home, cry at night, but go to work the next morning.”

She opined that the city should be closed immediately to slow the spread and that hospitals should be provided with additional medical equipment.

“Let everyone know … that choices are being made as to who won’t get intubated because there aren’t enough ventilators,” she urged. “Hospitals are overcrowded, choosing who lives and who dies.”

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Images and video shared by ABC News show an inundation of patients at one Spaniard hospital, with some patients even lying on the floor as they wait for help.

According to the latest figures, 39K people in Spain have been confirmed to have the virus, with 2,800 dead.

Officials in the United States have been seeking to avoid such a situation through repeated instructions on social distancing and staying home, with some hospitals in more urban areas concerned about a disproportionate patient per ventilator ratio.

New York City, which is the hardest hit area of the United States by far, currently has nearly 15,000 confirmed cases, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has directed hospitals in the state to significantly increase bed capacity in the intensive care unit (ICU) if at all possible.

He has also requested ventilators from the federal government out of concern that cases will peak within the next two to three weeks. Cuomo estimates that the state needs 25,000 more ventilators, which cost between $16K and $40K.

Syracuse.com also notes that “[v]entilators require trained respiratory therapists, a profession in such chronically short supply that even small hospitals routinely offer $5,000 to $10,000 signing bonuses.”

“Respiratory therapists are the unsung … professionals who could be the key to reducing the death toll of the coronavirus pandemic,” the outlet explains. “When desperately ill patients can’t breathe, it’s a respiratory therapist who slides a tube into the airway, then flips on and monitors the machine that keeps the oxygen flowing until the patients’ lungs can do it themselves.”

Stories are additionally being posted to social media of those who appear to have COVID-19, but were sent home unless they need to be put on a ventilator.

One of those stories is of Courtney Sims Lott, a 39-year-old Christian mother who runs an adoption ministry, who said she was not aware that she had been exposed to coronavirus and has “no idea” where she got it. Sims Lott has been confirmed to have the virus, but according to friend Natalie Schram, she was sent home this week after seeking help at the hospital.

“With the shape she was in, there was no doubt she’d receive help. Unfortunately that’s not the case,” Schram wrote on Monday. “Supplies are low, staff is limited, and medication is saved for individuals who are currently on a respirator. After a CT scan that showed severe damage to Courtney’s lungs and monitoring until her O2 stats were regulated, she was sent home.”

Sims Lott says that the only underlying health condition she has is asthma, and “This is not just another flu. … [T]his is completely different.”

Warning: Profanity

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