Sunday, October 24, 2021

Health workers who once saluted as heroes are now getting threats

by Heather Hollingsworth and the Grant School

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — More than a year after clapping from windows and balconies at night to US health care workers on the front lines against COVID-19, some have panicked in attacks and trenches. Buttons are being released. Scrub before going out in public for fear of harassment.

Across the country, doctors and nurses are dealing with hostility, threats and violence from patients angered by safety rules designed to prevent the spread of the disease.

“A year ago, we are health care heroes and everyone is clapping for us,” said Dallas-based emergency room physician Dr. Stu Kaufman said. “And now we’re being harassed and mistrusted and ridiculed in some areas for what we’re trying to do, which is just hopeless and depressing.”

Cox Medical Center Branson in Missouri began giving panic buttons to 400 nurses and other staff after 123 attacks tripled per year between 2019 and 2020, a spokesman said. A nurse had to get an X-ray of her shoulder after the attack.

Hospital spokeswoman Brandy Clifton said the pandemic had driven at least some of the increase.

“Many nurses say, ‘It’s just part of the job,'” Clifton said. “It’s not part of the job.”

Some hospitals have limited the number of public entrances. In Idaho, nurses said they were afraid to go to the grocery store until they ran out of their scrubs so as not to be attacked by angry residents.

Doctors and nurses at the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, hospital have been accused of killing patients by hurting family members who don’t believe COVID-19 is real, hospital spokeswoman Katy Bobbitt said. Is. Others have been the subject of hurtful rumors spread by angry people about the pandemic.

“Our health care workers are almost feeling like veterans of Vietnam, afraid to go into the community after a change,” Bobbitt said.

Over Labor Day weekend in Colorado, a passerby threw an unidentified liquid at a nurse working at a mobile vaccine clinic in suburban Denver. Another man in a pickup truck fled and destroyed signs around the clinic’s tent.

Nearly 3 in 10 nurses who participated in a survey this month by an umbrella organization of nurse unions across the US reported an increase in violence, where they stem from factors including staff shortages and greater visitor restrictions. That was up from 2 in 10 in March, according to National Nurses United’s survey of 5,000 nurses.

Michelle Jones, a nurse at a COVID-19 ICU unit in Wichita, Kansas, said patients are coming in in fear, sometimes several from the same family, and often near death. His family is angry thinking that the nurses and doctors are allowing him to die.

“They cry, they scream, they sit in small groups outside our ICU and pray,” Jones said. “Many people think they’re going to get miracles and God isn’t throwing them out this year. If you come to my ICU, you have a good chance of dying.”

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He said that powerful steroids that have shown promise often annoy patients.

“It’s like ‘rage at people,'” she said. “I’ve worked in health care for 26 years. And I’ve seen anything like this. I’ve never seen a public act like this.”

Across America, the COVID-19 crisis has led people to behave badly towards each other in a variety of ways.

Many people have been shot and killed in disputes over masks in shops and other public places. Slogans and scuffles have started in school board meetings. Earlier this month a controversy erupted at a New York City restaurant requiring customers to show proof of vaccination.

Dr Chris Sampson, an emergency room physician in Columbia, Missouri, said violence has always been a problem in the emergency department, but the situation has gotten worse in recent months. Sampson said he was pushed against a wall and seen kicking nurses.

Dr. Ashley Coggins, of St. Peter’s Health Regional Medical Center in Helena, Montana, said she recently asked a patient if she wanted to be vaccinated.

“He said, ‘F, no,’ and I didn’t ask further because I personally don’t want to be yelled at,” Coggins said. “You know, it’s a strange time in our world, and the respect that we used to have for each other, the respect that we used to have for the caregivers and the physicians and nurses — it doesn’t always happen, and it’s not always the case. makes way and louder.”

Coggins said the patient told him he “wanted to strangle President Biden” to push for vaccinations, prompting him to change the subject. She said security guards are now in charge of enforcing mask rules for hospital visitors so that nurses no longer have to ask people to leave.

Hostility is making an already stressful job difficult. Many places are facing acute shortage of staff, as nurses have been burnt out and jobs have been lost.

Dr. Kensey Graves, a physician at the University of Utah, said, “I think one thing we’ve seen and heard from many of our people is that it’s really hard to come to work every day when people interact with each other. behave badly.” Hospital in Salt Lake City.

“If you have to fight with someone about wearing a mask, or if you’re not allowed to go and we have to argue about that, it’s stressful.”


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Associated Press writer Rebecca Boone contributed to this report from Boise, Idaho. Hollingsworth reported from Mission, Kansas.


Iris Samuels from Helena, Montana contributed to this report. Samuels is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on secret issues.

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