'Somber faces and dispirited demeanor': ICU doctor reveals the horrors his colleagues are facing in rural Ohio

'Somber faces and dispirited demeanor': ICU doctor reveals the horrors his colleagues are facing in rural Ohio
200416-N-PH222-1039 LOS ANGELES (April 16, 2020) Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Brennan Leary, from Johnstown, Pa., treats a patient in an intensive care unit aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) April 16. Mercy deployed in support of the nation's COVID-19 response efforts, and will serve as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals. This allows shore base hospitals to focus their efforts on COVID-19 cases. One of the Department of Defense's missions is Defense Support of Civil Authorities. DoD is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, as well as state, local and public health authorities in helping protect the health and safety of the American people. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan M. Breeden)

An intensive care unit (ICU) doctor in rural Ohio is speaking out about the battle he and his staff have been fighting with the latest wave of COVID-19.

In an op-ed published by HuffPost, Dr. Jason Chertoff, M.D., M.P.H. painted a picture of the scene unfolding at the "moderate-sized community hospital" where he works. "I, like many other health care workers, am frustrated and concerned about our nation’s path as we enter year three." Chertoff wrote."

In his piece, he offered a brief timeline of the start of his career compared to how things are now. "When I became board certified in my specialties just three years ago, COVID-19 did not exist," Chertoff wrote. "But now my new norm and second home is a 24-bed ICU filled with COVID-19 patients on ventilators, medically paralyzed and flipped on their stomachs, with many more patients waiting to enter. Sometimes in the midst of the vital sign alarms blaring, overhead code blue alerts, and grueling end-of-life family meetings, I ponder how much longer this pace can be sustained."

Chertoff warns that the ongoing pandemic is taking its toll on healthcare workers.

"As we embark on our third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is difficult to name all of the health care resources that have neared depletion, with ventilators, personal protective equipment, emergency room, and intensive care unit beds, physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other essential health care workers being just a few," he wrote. "Gazing at my colleagues’ somber faces and dispirited demeanor, it is clear that an underappreciated health care resource deserving mention, which is now quickly dwindling, is morale."

Even with high salaries healthcare professionals are being offered to fight the pandemic, Chertoff notes that the ongoing shortages are a clear indication of how morale is waning. He also explained why hospitals are unable to resolve the problem.

“Never before have health care workers been offered such high salaries, stipends, and bonuses to do their jobs, but still the shortages persist. They persist because money fails to address the crux of the problem, which is that the morale and resolve of health care workers are at all-time lows.”

As healthcare workers continue their battle against the mutating virus, it is continuing to spread rapidly. So, what is driving America's COVID crisis? According to Chertoff, the answer is "simple ― albeit controversial and politically heated."

“Hospitals continue to exceed capacity, exhaustion of vital health care resources persist, and human lives are still being lost. Why? The answer is simple ― albeit controversial and politically heated: Not enough Americans have been vaccinated”

In wake of the bleak battle healthcare workers are faced with, Chertoff is calling on leadership to help the medical community. He also offered a bit of advice.

"Our health care community is currently wounded and in dire need of uplifting leadership and direction, similar to others that have experienced crisis in our nation’s history," Chertoff wrote. "So, to those supposedly in charge, I plead with you to talk to us and remind us why we chose this profession in the first place. Assure us that we still serve a purpose and that together, we can work toward a better future."

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