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TNC

“You need to tell people how terrible this is:” A report from inside an Alaska hospital

Note from the editors: The Alaska Landmine reached out to an Emergency Room doctor at an Alaska hospital to solicit an unvarnished report of current conditions in the hospital. The piece is published anonymously because the individual is not authorized to speak to the press.

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“You need to tell people how terrible this is,” a patient pleaded with me as we placed him on oxygen support, “this isn’t the flu. This is the worst I have felt in my life.”

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Ermine Skate

I am exhausted, but I am still trying.

I am an Alaskan emergency room doctor. Every patient I saw in the first four hours of my last shift had COVID. Every. Single. Patient. Our hospitals are overflowing even as frontline healthcare workers are reaching their breaking points and walking away. As the Delta Variant tsunami continues to flood the state, our ability to care for all of our patients is jeopardized.

My colleagues and I have been trying to communicate how devastating this virus can be. Public health departments have been trying. I am not a Democrat. I am not a Republican. I have voted for members of both parties. My goal is not to make a political statement, but to let you know what it is currently like inside of an Alaska Emergency Room (ER).

Last winter our ERs were stressed by the influx of COVID patients. This surge is much worse. The patients coming to the ER over the past two months are often sicker and younger than before. The Delta Variant comprised 96% of COVID strains sequenced in July and August in Alaska.  With the new variant we are seeing more people without underlying medical problems who are sick and seeking help. This week we had a 20-year-old die of COVID in this state. We see young patients without risk factors react to the virus with heart attacks, strokes, lung scarring and other life-altering side effects.

Our COVID patients are confused, hallucinating, and exhausted. After eight days of symptoms, one patient told me that she “could not keep living like this.” Work days seem like revolving doors of COVID patients with long waits. People are angry and upset with the long waits, but patients keep arriving. One patient showed up multiple days in a row with tears in her eyes hoping for a new drug or miracle cure. Unfortunately, that drug does not exist. Others are shocked as their symptoms carry on for weeks. After COVID infections, some formerly healthy patients can no longer walk across the room without oxygen, much less go on a hike. Every one of my shifts now includes another heart-wrenching story.

We medical workers are exhausted. ERs already struggling with the typical summer onslaught of accidental injuries, strokes, heart attacks, and other medical emergencies are inundated with sicker and sicker COVID patients. Over the past two weeks multiple hospitals across Anchorage have been on surge capacity. This means that they don’t have room to take care of patients who may come in the front door with appendicitis, broken bones or other illnesses. Many patients are staying in the Emergency Department for multiple days waiting for an inpatient bed.

Hospital resources are becoming scarce. Healthcare is not infinite. There are limited beds, limited staff, and limited drugs. Patients with medical emergencies are being examined in the hallways or waiting multiple hours in waiting rooms. Rural facilities without certain specialty care that is only available in Anchorage have attempted to transfer patients here, only to be told to call Seattle. Now those hospitals are filling close to capacity as well.

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Blueprint

There are fewer and fewer staff to take care of patients. Turnover is high in both emergency rooms and intensive care areas across the state. Many hospitals have declared critical staffing shortages with nursing, technicians, social workers, and many other patient-care related staff. Skilled staff are leaving the acute care environment for less traumatic and exhausting occupations.

I understand why they leave. It’s hard not want to leave too after listening to a COVID patient say goodbye to his terminally ill wife while I put him on a breathing machine. He strained to hear over the blows of the BiPap as her voice quavered, knowing they may never speak again.

I too daydream of working in a less discouraging profession. Although I have no plans to quit, taking care of patients whose pain and deaths are preventable is still heartbreaking.

The arrival of the COVID vaccines in early 2021 brought a great deal of hope to Alaska’s medical community. Their efficacy in preventing hospitalizations and death is astounding.  Emphasis on ‘prevent’. COVID has few treatment options and no cures. All we can do is help the body try to fight and survive the infection.  After Alaska’s vaccine distribution kicked into gear over spring, case counts dropped. Hospitals disbanded COVID units and there were days where local hospitals didn’t admit a single new COVID patient.

Almost all of our cases coming to the Emergency Room now involve unvaccinated individuals. Per the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, as of August 9th, 94% of COVID hospitalizations and 96% of the COVID deaths since January 1, 2021 are in not-fully-vaccinated individuals. The difference between the experiences of vaccinated and unvaccinated people is often stark. A couple comes in: one vaccinated the other not. The unvaccinated spouse is coughing, vomiting and needing help. The vaccinated person is the asymptomatic caretaker.

I have treated patients who came to the ER sick with COVID who then ask if they can get the vaccine. The answer is that if you are already infected with COVID, the vaccine will not cure your current illness. It’s too late. However, if you are not infected with COVID and unvaccinated, immunizations are still available. There are free vaccination clinics set up across the state.

Are you okay with not having a bed? Are you willing to sit in your car for hours and wait to be treated? Are you prepared to watch your loved one be taken out of state so they can be admitted for medical treatment?

This is the current reality at hospitals in Alaska.

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Lynn Willis
1 month ago

Thank you. I do hope this is re-printed and copies sent by registered mail to Dave Bronson, Lora Reinbold, Mike Dunleavy, Jamie Allard and the rest of these cynical politicians who know better yet are exploiting this pandemic strictly for political gain. And don’t forget the Mat-Su school board who gave their “pliable” Superintendent a $20,000 “bonus” for his anti-mask classroom policy. And now let us all gather at the “super spreader” event also known as the Alaska State Fair.

Peter Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

Kinda weird that after supporting those Nazi license plates Jamie Allard is actually promoting a de fato eugenics program against her own constituents.

Sega Genesis
1 month ago

If Bronson doesn’t change course quickly he is going to go down as the most destructive Anchorage mayor of all time. This is like being the mayor of Honolulu the day after the Pearl Harbor attack and declaring that not only are the Japanese not a threat, but that they don’t even exist. Come on, we have children and people in their 20s and 30s dying alone in the hospital. What more do you need to convince you that this is real?

Peter Thompson
1 month ago
Reply to  Sega Genesis

lol, a WWII metaphor? Come on, it’s “pilot mayor” Dave Bronson. He only speaks in airplane metaphors. You need to say something like “Dave, imagine you are the pilot of a 737 full of children that is headed directly toward a mountain. If you steer to the left a little bit, you will avoid the mountain. What do you do?”

Concerned for concerned citizen
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Thompson

If Dave Bronson were my pilot I’d support the flight attendants taping him to his seat so he can’t hurt anyone else. The guy is a reckless, cruel idiot.

AKphishon
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter Thompson

Actual proof, not just some words from the mouth of a medical professional that can be bought or coerced into saying what his/her employer wants them too. Kinda funny how there is supposed to be mass surges going on in ER’s on east coast. Yet there are nurses reporting their own stories on Facebook that this whole surge is a lie made up by media. One nurse’s story is about one currently working in DC and says the ER where she works is less than half capacity and only covid ICU patients are over the age of 80. P.S. vaccinated… Read more »

Right
1 month ago
Reply to  AKphishon

Right. All of those doctors and nurses, hospital managers, journalists, all public health organizations… they’re all just being “bought off.” Maybe there’s a giant conspiracy involving millions of Americans that’s so airtight that not one person has ratted and brought forth evidence that they’ve been “bought off.” Or maybe – just maybe – there’s no conspiracy. This is all real. And YOU’RE the one who has been duped by a conspiracy theory.

lvw
1 month ago
Reply to  AKphishon

Why would a testimony verified by a well-known online publication be any less trustworthy than a FB profile of an alleged nurse? Do you know how easy it is to create those profiles? By the way, both could be true because DC’s vaccination rate is 67% against Alaska’s 53%. But whatever, go to the ER yourself and see if that’s the only “proof” you will accept. I am willing to bet that once people lose a few close family members to this virus as I have already, they might start to think about how they are not invulnerable, and maybe… Read more »

Alex
13 days ago
Reply to  AKphishon

Reality is whatever you want it to be, brother. Congregate with yer unvaccinated friends in tight spaces and breathe deep!

Evan S Singh
1 month ago

I’d sure like to see this piece published in the ADN.

1 month ago
Reply to  Evan S Singh

Agree. Author should ask ADN Editor Tom Hewitt if he’d make an exception on anonymous Op Eds.

1 month ago

Compelling. Thank you for speaking up from experience. My wife knows this from her hospital work, but this doctor is on the front line. Jeff, good work publishing this and trying to be part of a needed, and very sadly not immediate solution.

Maria
1 month ago

Unfortunately the people who will be your patients next week will not be the ones who read this or take it to heart. The whole situation is heartbreaking.

Flordiawoman
1 month ago

I thought our stable genius in chief said covid-19 would magically disappear by Easter 2020?

Concerned citizen
1 month ago

Funny … I live in Alaska. My husband is in leadership at the hospital and this is far from our experience. Where is this mystery hospital? If you don’t provide better details people can say anything they want. This is just ripe for ginning up the narrative with bo verifiable facts or data. Stop already! We’ve all had more than enough!

Lynn Willis
1 month ago

Since you apparently don’t like anonymous comments, have additional facts that would contradict this physician plus given that we have more than one hospital in “Alaska” perhaps you would state your name, present those facts and also name the hospital where your “.. husband is in leadership…”?

M.Piacquaddio
1 month ago

You are exactly right! This sounds like another propaganda scare tactic. Enough already!!!! STOP THIS INSANITY!!

Concerned for concerned citizen
1 month ago

Every newspaper in the state is reporting the same basic facts reported here. Medical groups in Alaska have been sounding the alarm bells on burnout and lack of capacity for weeks now, if not longer. You seriously think every medical organization in Alaska and countless frontline medical staff are just… making this up for no reason? Garbage conspiracy theories like yours are the reason we’re in this crisis. Just stop, please.

D Blouin
1 month ago

Not making things up, just not being forthcoming with all the details: poor pay, understaffing, poor planning.

Deuce Mccarthy
1 month ago

Upper management having no clue what their front line staff is going through daily? Absolute shocker!! No wonder they are wildly short staffed and over worked with idiots like your husband to lead them

LeftAlaskaforareason
1 month ago

Hmmm “leadership” in a hospital – no wonder they don’t know what’s going on – leadership is too far up corporate’s rear end to actually know what the nursing and medical staff are actually doing on the floors and in the ER. Maybe “leadership” should throw on a pair of scrubs and get in there to help take care of the increasing load of patients

Bob Gardener
1 month ago

Make the unvaccinated give up the beds. They deserve it. This is culling the idiots of America.

D Blouin
1 month ago
Reply to  Bob Gardener

That is evil. Seriously evil.

Sharon
30 days ago
Reply to  D Blouin

The unvaccinated who end up getting Covid or the variant should do their recovering at home and not burden the hospital with something they could easily have prevented or made to be less deadly. What right do they have to take those beds away from those who need other care and can’t get it due to all the beds being filled and the medical staff being exhausted from caring for those who have not even tried to hold off this illness?

Wendy
1 month ago

As someone who was recently treated in the emergency room hallway, I can verify it was like war zone conditions. The light that the doctor was using to sew my arm up was plugged in across the hall. Gurney’s, other patients, and staff kept knocking it away as they passed by. The doctor asked me to keep it pointed at my arm so he could see what he was doing, which I did. He told me all the beds in the ER were full.

D Blouin
1 month ago
Reply to  Wendy

Is it possible that hospital administrators have seriously been underserving their hospitals for years, and now we are all paying the price?

Ivan Moore
1 month ago

Good work, Jiff.

Shawn ODONNELL
1 month ago

You need to tell people? They know, they know, they don’t care, it’s about freedom. More or less is yes I know I should wear a mask or get vaccinated but my freedom. It’s stupid, really ones freedom to what? Feel miserable? I don’t feel sorry for the unvaccinated morons who are suffering not one bit.

Veronica
1 month ago

How many hospitals are in Alaska?
An anonymous Dr. ? How can you verify this is an actual Dr.?
Journalists integrity is dead and fiction is running amuck!
#fakenews
Just spent a week in the hospital almost daily visiting a patient and saw the emergency room daily……100% fake news …….seriously!

Mekeke
1 month ago
Reply to  Veronica

Come spend a night in the ER with my husband and then tell me this is fake news!!!

D Blouin
1 month ago
Reply to  Mekeke

Which hospital?

Patrick Bissey
1 month ago

Give them hydroxychloquine or ivremectin, many other countries report success. Here in the U.S. if there is ANY treatment for the chi-comm plague, then there is no ’emergency use’ of the ‘vaccine’

Jim
1 month ago

What a story. Absolutely hilarious.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jim
Rupert Scribner
1 month ago

This is disgusting ! Where’s your quotes, data, verifiable sources?
If this is truly the case then let’s see the numbers and health officials on record.
Publishing an article like this is not journalism.

Retired journalist
1 month ago

1. This doesn’t claim to be anything other than what it is: an anonymous commentary. 2. The reasons for publishing anonymously are stated in the intro. Anonymous sources are to be avoided WHEN POSSIBLE, but their use is well established within “real journalism”. 3. There are literally thousands of other, traditionally sourced news articles from across the world which describe similar circumstances. (That’s the biggest criticism of this commentary: it doesn’t add anything we didn’t know already.) It’s good to have a functioning BS detector. But it’s critically important to check the function of your BS detector and consider whether… Read more »

D Blouin
1 month ago

The point is anonymous sources don’t bring any real light to the situation. The author claimed anonymity because he or she is not authorized to speak to the press. And yet speaking to the press is exactly what was done. If someone is willing to go that far, why not say which hospital? Because the staffing problem goes back further than Covid. The pandemic preparedness plans, or lack of plans, also goes back further than Covid.

RUPERT SCRIBNER
1 month ago

If the article is going to sway the readers “BS detector” then traceable sources and data must be provided with the anecdotal evidence to so. Anything less and the reader is left to believe that article is purely hysteria.

Rupert Scribner
1 month ago
Reply to  Paxson Woelber

Soliciting from a single source from one hospital doesn’t show anything but it does help spread unfounded fear. Without a doubt we’re experiencing a spike but let’s see some # & ٪ as well interview some people that you can quote. Build your story and support it with accountability do a better job!
This doesn’t inform but adds to the pile of BS that we see from other News outlets.

robespierre
24 days ago
Reply to  Paxson Woelber

If you are interested in really reporting on this, you’d dig deeper into the 20 +year history of ARH and Providence staffing their beds with locum nurses and what it means to be short staffed. Then you’d ask why is there a staffing shortage nationwide – is it because these same institutions managed to make whopping profits in 2020 while the hospital admins sat safely at home during zoom calls and sent their staff messages about not swapping out the one n95 they were issued for the week, at the same time they were making them downstaff with out pay?… Read more »

Lynn Willis
1 month ago

So the FOX News tactic of offering fake news as a question instead of a statement is totally convincing? For example “Should we not question this factual data from the CDC?” A tactic that totally works with the gullible eager to hear lies as truth.

RUPERT SCRIBNER
1 month ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

I wouldn’t trust anything from Fox, CNN, or any national news out let without verifying it. That’s why it’s so important that impartiality and accountable sources are used, then the reader can verifying that accountability and make a decision. Unfortunately this is the same sensationalism reporting that Fox would provide and I would hope a local news outlet would hold themselves to a higher bar.
These are our neighbors and loved one’s your stirring up Im only asking that you report the facts with thoughtfulness and responsibility where ever that leads. Again please do a better job!

Areal Bilk
1 month ago

If the comments are any indication this piece will make no difference. People have become so absorbed by the political bubble they surround themselves with they can no longer think for themselves. I have an aunt who has been sick with Covid for weeks but my MAGA uncle still believes it’s a hoax. It’s complete madness.

Mekeke
1 month ago

I can tell you that this is 100% accurate! My husband is an ER nurse and I work in a medical clinic. I wish this was just BS but it is not. My husband comes home tired every morning, had to put someone on bi pap, had to intubate 2 others. 3 of them are going to die that have been intubated already. Not to mention all the other covid patients that are coming in because they are so sick but not sick enough to be hospitalized. All that on top of the heart attacks, strokes, broken bones and every… Read more »

ORJAFERD
1 month ago

From an ER doc in Southern Oregon:
I see you.
I hear you.
I am you.

I also have no plans to quit, but I don’t blame any of our colleagues who do. They will. And the public won’t know and won’t care until things are “back to normal” – when we’ll still be under staffed, and they’ll again complain about their wait times or their bills and blame it on those of us still standing.

Donald J. Trump
1 month ago

If only there was a way to prevent hospitalizations and deaths from Covid. I know politicians are useless but maybe scientists could give it a shot.

David Weed
1 month ago

Given the current situation, emergency rooms should have a triage protocol concerning individuals who have refused to vaccinate unless it is because their doctor has warned against it due to a medical condition they have. These intentionally unvaccinated people should be treated, if at all, only after all others and only if their treatment does not overburden the treating facility.

James ONeil
6 days ago
Reply to  David Weed

OK Karen.

D Blouin
1 month ago

What hospital?

Timothy Huit
28 days ago

8/26/2021 725pm to 748pm

Just checked all three emergency waiting areas of our Anchorage area hospitals.

Alaska Regional
O people waiting in emergency area.
Sign outside said 24min waiting time for care.

Providence Hospital
6 people in emergency waiting area.
Always takes a couple hours to be seen.

Alaska Native Medical Center
4 people in emergency waiting area.
Always takes a couple hours to be seen.

No long lines at all three.

PJ Olson
27 days ago

Quoted from Must Read Alaska: “Governor Mike Dunleavy urged Alaskans to take immediate action on their own to combat the Covid-19 virus as the state remains in the “red zone,” at the highest alert level. The current statewide alert is over 450 cases per 100,000 people. The Delta variant of Covid-19 is more contagious and spreading widely throughout the nation, including in Alaska. Dr. Anne Zink, the state’s chief medical officer, said 127 people are in the hospital with Covid-19, with 16 of them on ventilators. 13 percent of hospital stays are for Covid cases, she said.” 450/100,000 = 0.45%… Read more »

Alex
13 days ago

The Republicans politicized vaccines and the entire pandemic, when all these ever were were medical and public health issues. The irony is that they are killing their own gullible voters. Vaccinated people are 11 times less likely to die of COVID than the unvaccinated. Eleven times. Yet Republicans would rather ingest a horse deworming medication than take a vaccine targeted at the virus they are actually facing. For people who fear being “replaced” by others who aren’t like them this is strange behavior indeed.

James ONeil
7 days ago

Sounds a lot like propaganda. No wonder he/she refuses to be named.