Coronavirus impact: Medical supply shortage takes toll on Bay Area nurses, doctors

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The medical supply shortage and influx of patients are taking a toll on health care workers across the country, including in the Bay Area. Nurses and doctors are scared and frustrated by the lack of resources for both themselves and their patients.

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"These are emergency room physicians who are trained for this, and even they are sounding a little shell shocked," said Dr. Jeremy Faust, an ER doctor at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and faculty member at Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Faust grew up in San Francisco and has been in touch with emergency physicians across the country. He's concerned about the lack of ventilators at U.S. hospitals. Mayor London Breed said San Francisco needs at least 1,500 more ventilators.

"We can do some MacGyver-like things to expand ventilator capacity, but those moves are very dangerous, such as having two patients on one ventilator for example," explained Dr. Faust. " The sad reality is for doctors like me or ICU doctors to have to make choices that we never wanted to make, which is, which of these two patients has a better chance. That's just a nightmare scenario."

In the East Bay Thursday, healthcare workers outside Oakland's Highland Hospital demanded the Alameda County Board of Supervisors take over Alameda Health System, over claims of mismanagement.

"We are not going to be here putting ourselves at risk and not having the resources that we need every day," shouted an Alameda Health System employee into a megaphone.

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"Why do we have to go somewhere else to find gloves? Why do we have to go somewhere else to find masks," asked Mawata Kamara at the rally. Kamara is an ER nurse at San Leandro Hospital.

"I have a patient who possibly has COVID. I need gloves, where are the gloves? Why do I have to go to my manager's office and sign a piece of paper to get gloves? Why is that happening," asked Kamara to the crowd of AHS health care employees.
Alameda Health System sent the following statement to ABC7 on Thursday afternoon:

"We think a pandemic is not the time to play politics with the health of the community and the system that serves the most vulnerable populations in Alameda County. Like every other hospital in the country, AHS is focused on preparing to meet the needs of the community in case of a surge in COVID-19 cases. We are all concerned about our ability to sustain an onslaught of patients with available supplies and PPE. We have adequate supplies at this moment and are using them consistent with CDC guidelines to protect staff and patients and conserve what we have."

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In the South Bay, health care workers are expressing that despite what officials have said, the personal protective equipment shortage is a frightening reality for healthcare workers.

"I talked to nurses in the break room who are crying, frustrated with what's going on," said Allan Kamara, an ER nurse at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose and the vice president for RNPA, a nurses union. "It's taking a tremendous emotional toll on our nurses and our healthcare front line workers."

Dr. Faust says leaders must use the Defense Protection Act to mobilize and get medical supplies to hospitals around the country immediately.

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