Federal survey finds unease, anxiety among hospitals with COVID response

WGN Investigates

  WGN Investigates has the results of a new federal inspector general’s survey looking at the crisis in care reported at some hospitals across the country.

One month ago, Pres. Trump said: “As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test – that’s the important thing – the tests are all perfect.”

But a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s survey of hospitals conducted in the last full week of March show the crisis around care and testing continues.

The IG noted “severe shortages of testing supplies and extended waits for test results limited hospitals’ ability to monitor the health of patients and staff.” 

  WGN Investigates interviewed suburban nurse Adriana Sanchez last week.  She’s been sidelined waiting a week for test results.

“It’s just really frustrating,” she said.  “I’d like to know for sure. That was the whole point of being tested.”

  Federal health officials noted cases like Sanchez’ are common.  One hospital executive said 20-25 percent of his staff was presumed to have COVID-19 and couldn’t directly help patients while they wait of a week or more for results.

The federal inspector general’s survey found hospital executives across the country are concerned equipment shortages in the days to come could force them to make life or death decisions.

The IG quoted a hospital official pleading, “Government needs to provide guidelines on ethics if health resources are limited and decisions need to be made about which patients to treat.” And asked: “Are physicians liable for their decisions if that happens?”

Hospital executives said they and their staffs have been confused and concerned by conflicting messages sent from the federal government about everything from testing to the availability of personal protective equipment.

One said: “getting supplies from the stockpile was a major challenge…” and added, “the supplies the hospital received won’t even last a day.”

Hospital officials also echoed concerns raised by Illinois Governor JB Pritzker and other governors that they’ve been forced to essentially enter into a bidding war for supplies with other states and the federal government and it’s driving prices up. One hospital reported masks that used to sell for 50-cents a piece now cost 6-dollars each.

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