‘It’s a difficult place to be right now’: ER doctor worried as beds fill up, COVID-19 cases climb

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – As COVID-19 cases climb and hospital beds fill up, an emergency room doctor is sharing her worries about the coming weeks in Rhode Island.

According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, the state’s COVID-19 bed capacity is at 97%. If we continue on the current path, Governor Gina Raimondo and health experts have said we could be needing the state’s field hospitals soon.

“We’re worried that this will be a December in which our ICUs overflow and which the field hospital is rapidly filled up,” said Dr. Laura Forman, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Kent Hospital.

Dr. Forman is also the Chief Medical Officer for the Cranston field hospital at the former Citizen’s Bank building. The field hospital, run by Care New England, along with Lifespan’s field hospital at the Rhode Island Convention Center, are both on standby in case hospitals need to send patients there.

She said her concern isn’t the right now, but a few weeks from now, after people celebrate Thanksgiving.

“Our concern isn’t the situation now, but our concern is what happens when people spend time with their loved ones on Thanksgiving and spend time indoors, unmasked, with other non-immediate family members,” Dr. Forman said. “Our big concern is what happens in the next couple of weeks. You know, across the state we are really being pushed to the brink in terms of hospital capacity, and we’re very worried that at this current trajectory we’re going to be pushed into the field hospital pretty soon.”

The biggest issue with the field hospitals, she said, is staffing them.

“There are only so many qualified nurses and doctors who can take care of patients and there are only so many hospital beds, there are only so many ICU beds.”

Plus, on top of the COVID-19 patients, are those seeking non-virus-related care.

“It’s taking care of people who have heart attacks, and strokes, and injuries, and that is a priority for all of us so we are able to care for them all but the more people that have COVID the more difficult that becomes.”

Dr. Forman said, at Kent Hospital, she is seeing more COVID-19 patients now than she did in the spring.

“On the whole, the patients aren’t as sick as a lot of the patients we were seeing in the spring. That having been said, we are still intubating people, we are still needing ventilators, our ICUs are still near capacity.”

She said the staff is weary after fighting the virus for the last eight months, and they fear what’s ahead.

“It’s a difficult place to be right now. The staff is weary, the staff has been working incredibly hard for the last 8, 9 months of the pandemic, and we’re all really concerned about what the next months are going to bring for us.”

With patients dying of the virus, without family members allowed in their rooms, Dr. Forman said that’s been the hardest thing to witness.

“It’s been a really emotional and difficult time for us. We’ve lost staff at our hospital to COVID. We’ve all seen people get really sick with COVID. To have somebody die without their loved ones there, to have to call loved ones on the phone and tell them that your mother is dying, your father is dying, your child is dying… and no you can’t come in to be here but what do you want me to tell them? What words can I give them from you?”

She’s hoping the Governor’s announcement of a two-week pause starting the Monday after Thanksgiving will help, and that more people will start to take the virus seriously.

“We are putting our lives on the line every single day, we are risking the lives of our families every single day to take care of our community and all we want is our community to take care of itself,” Dr. Forman said. “I’m hopeful that people will listen to the Governor and I’m hopeful that people take this seriously because Rhode Islanders are dying from this and we need to stop this.”

© WLNE-TV 2020

Categories: Coronavirus, News, Providence, Regional News, Rhode Island, Warwick