PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health says 664 health care workers in the state have tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say there are probably many more because some don’t get tested and several facilities are no longer reporting numbers. Among the many challenges hospitals are facing is a growing number of employees testing positive.
Doctors, nurses, and technicians — those on the frontlines taking care of COVID-19 patients — are getting the virus themselves. Some are able to continue working through telemedicine.
“I’ve never felt so deeply sad and distraught,” said Dr. Kamini Doobay, a resident emergency medicine doctor.
Health care workers are emotionally drained and increasingly testing positive for COVID-19.
“As you struggle to breathe, you panic,” said health care worker Katie Drury.
After testing positive, Drury had to be separated from her family.
“That was hard,” she said.
Working with infected patients increases the risk for health care workers, but they can also be exposed in the community.
“It started with a dry cough,” Dr. Aditi Joshi, an emergency physician for Jefferson Health, said. “Progress two days later, fever, body aches, headaches.”
Joshi is slowly recovering from the coronavirus.
“It’s dragging on and it’s more exhausting,” Joshi described. “Feels like it’s taking a lot of energy out of me to fight.”
She’s been in isolation since she first got sick but has been work to work through JeffConnect. Telemedicine has exploded during the outbreak.
Joshi, on her computer, is interacting with patients who are on their computers, laptops or phones — devices equipped with a video function.
“Jefferson has had a program for a few years, so when this outbreak started happening, we were able to ramp it up as opposed to having to create it, which made it a lot easier for us,” Joshi said.
She says JeffConnect has been bombarded with calls because of the outbreak.
“A lot of people are much less likely to want to go into a clinic at this time to decrease their risk of contagion,” the doctor said. “They don’t want to go to urgent care if they don’t have to, don’t want to go to the ER if they don’t have to.”
Jefferson’s daily telemedicine visits have grown from 20 to 200 and the number of patients scheduling online appointments is up from 50 a day to 2,200.
Medicare and private insurers, that once did not cover virtual health care, have bent the rules for the pandemic.