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Nurses treating COVID-19 say they can't get tested, fear healthcare system might 'collapse'

Posted at 11:11 PM, Mar 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 08:15:18-04

NEW YORK CITY — Protecting healthcare workers is a frequent chorus from elected officials, but it's not just a rallying cry for politicians — it may be a serious problem, even here in New York.

Two nurses spoke to PIX11 News with the condition that we not reveal who they are, but both work within the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital system — ranked number one ranked in New York City. Both told us the hospital is not doing enough to protect the nurses who are on the front lines of this pandemic.

"They're making us come into work even if we think we have coronavirus, as long as we don't have any symptoms," one nurse who works in the intensive care unit told us.

Nurses on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic said they are struggling.

"We currently do not know how many of our nurses are actually positive ,and we don't know the number that have been exposed."

The nurses PIX11 spoke to over teleconference painted a scary and dire picture of what's happening inside of New York's hospitals.

Supplies are running short.

"You have nurses making their own masks out of cloths," a nurse told us.

Nurses who have treated COVID-19 patients are being told they cannot get tested: "Not without symptoms."

"What we believe is that the health care system in this country might very well collapse," a nurse said.

The union representing the nurses is also calling for more testing.

"We're willing, ready and able," Anthony Ciampa, vice president of the New York State Nurses Association, told us. "We need the tools, the supplies, the resources to be able to stop this virus."

Because of the growing outbreak, NewYork-Presbyterian has now eliminated any visitors to most of its patients, including fathers and women's partners in the delivery room.

In a statement, NewYork-Presbyterian told us:

“NewYork-Presbyterian is treating a large influx of COVID-19 patients, as anticipated. The health and safety of every patient in our care, as well as our entire staff, continues to be our highest priority. We continue to implement measures to increase capacity, including triage tents and reassignment of beds and units, cancellations of all elective surgeries, and utilization of telemedicine if possible; we are also conserving supplies, including personal protective equipment, to help meet this challenge, which we expect to continue. We very much appreciate the outpouring of support from New Yorkers for our healthcare workers.“

Corey Crockett contributed.