Tucson ER Doctor: “Our hospitals are very busy right now with COVID.”

Protecting healthcare Workers

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A Tucson emergency room physician says you need to stay home even if state leaders aren’t going to require it.

“The emergency department in our critical care units should not be the frontline of COVID, it should be the backline. The frontline should be our public health service,” said Dr. Brad Dreifuss.

Dr. Dreifuss spoke with KOLD News 13 Friday afternoon from the AirBnB he has been staying in for weeks while fighting the coronavirus.

“Our hospitals are very busy right now with COVID,” said Dr. Dreifuss.

While bars, nightclubs, gyms and water parks have been ordered to close again in Arizona, cases continue to rise. As of July 10, more than 116,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

AZDHS reported 2,082 deaths due to COVID-19. 313 of those deaths were in Pima County.

Track COVID-19 cases by zip code by clicking HERE.

KOLD News 13 asked Dr. Dreifuss if the governor’s announcement on July 9 to limit indoor dining at restaurants was enough of an action.

“Of course it’s not enough,” said Dr. Dreifuss. “It’s quite disappointing. Yeah, full closure for a period of time would be optimal.”

Dr. Dreifuss said you need to stay home. If you don’t, you need to wear a mask in a public place.

Scaling up on testing and contact tracing is essential, he said, while staffing at area hospitals has been stressful, following furloughs just months ago.

“Right now, we’re having a lot of stress with finding healthcare workers,” said Dr. Dreifuss. “We’re having to find nurses and staff from out of the state to staff. We’re having pediatric ICU attendees working on the adult side and everyone is just emotionally exhausted.”

Dr. Dreifuss said tens of thousands of healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19, including one of his colleagues in recent weeks.

“I just had a colleague test positive for COVID-19 because the disease burden in the emergency department is so high,” said Dr. Dreifuss.

Dr. Dreifuss is also the co-founder of HCW Hosted, a grassroots, community-based organization that has come together to help healthcare workers in Tucson.

The organization helps coordinate housing, health check-ins, emotional support and more.

“In the beginning we were saying we’re the canaries in the coal mine,” said Dr. Dreifuss.

Right now, he said many health professionals may be spending their shifts working to save lives, unknowingly a statistic.

“We are not testing our healthcare workers. If we were smart about this, we’d be testing us twice a week to make sure we are not asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and spreading it to our colleagues and spreading it to our patients,” said Dr. Dreifuss. “Just the fact of that we are not the highest for infection, we would have much less anxiety in our work space.”

He said the healthcare system needs to be re-evaluated and prepared to respond if another situation, like the coronavirus pandemic, happens again.

“This has become a never again situation, where the battle cry needs to be, this never needs to happen again,” said Dr. Dreifuss.

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