— Nearly 5% of those who responded to a bi-weekly MedPage Today survey have or had the disease
The findings come from an ongoing MedPage Today poll conducted every 2 weeks to monitor challenges U.S. healthcare workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent survey took place from April 29 to May 3 and was distributed by email and posted on the MedPage Today site.
COVID-19 continues to waylay healthcare workers, the latest findings revealed. Nationally, 20% of respondents said 1% to 5% of their facility’s healthcare workers were out due to COVID-19 illness or exposure. About one in ten put COVID-19 absenteeism at 6% to 10%, and 6% said the virus sidelined 11% or more of their workforce.
While some respondents said their coworkers experienced mainly mild COVID-19 cases — “we had 48 positives in our hospital system, most are back to work already; none serious,” said a Los Angeles cardiologist — others reported much more devastating situations. “Two of my colleagues were the first to pass away at the hospital,” one physician wrote.
The survey also showed:
COVID-19 testing still is severely lacking, but trending toward improvement
The majority of respondents, 56%, still rated their access to COVID-19 testing as fair or poor, representing an improvement from the 67% fair-to-poor rating of 2 weeks ago. “It is still very difficult. We still predominately test if you are being admitted or, now, if you need an elective surgery or admission to a skilled nursing facility. Outpatient is still chaos,” wrote an infectious disease specialist. “Only admitted patients get tested,” noted a cardiologist in New York City. “The hospital is not routinely testing staff workers who want testing,” another New York physician said.
About 70% of hospitals lack access to all COVID-19 treatments, including experimental therapies
Only 31% of respondents said their facility could access all therapies including experimental treatments; the same percentage was reported 2 weeks ago. “I cannot get remdesivir yet. Convalescent plasma limited,” one critical care physician wrote. “Stopped using hydroxychloroquine after data was suggesting harm but we had access to it when it was being given more regularly,” an infectious disease specialist noted. “Gilead drug [remdesivir] or IL-6 inhibitors” were not available, a Chicago anesthesiologist wrote, while an Atlanta critical care doctor reported access to “most treatments, including tocilizumab.”
Personal protective equipment (PPE) continues to be a problem
About half (49%) of respondents said their access to PPE was fair or poor, similar to the 51% who said so 2 weeks ago. “We have PPE, but we need to save and reuse our N95 mask,” an emergency medicine doctor in Cleveland remarked. “No N95 is provided unless you can do a mask exchange to have it cleaned and reused,” a nurse practitioner in West Virginia said. “N95 masks and face shields are available only for COVID-confirmed patients,” a cardiologist in northern California noted. “Everything is locked down,” another physician stated. “In order to see a patient in consultation, you have to ask an administrator for an N95 mask. They are available, but barriers are high.”
Most respondents (86%) in this survey were doctors; 4% were nurses, 4% were nurse practitioners, and 3% were physician assistants. Nearly two-thirds (65%) currently worked in a hospital. Specialties included emergency medicine (6%), critical care/ICU (6%), anesthesiology (6%), cardiology (6%), infectious disease (3%), neurology (2%), and pulmonology (2%), among others.
About a quarter of respondents practiced in New York City (17%) or northern New Jersey (8%). Another 10% worked in Los Angeles, 6% in Chicago, 5% in Boston, 4% in Detroit, and 3% in Miami.
A limitation of this poll is that identities of respondents and their locations, license status, and individual responses were not verified independently.