Coronavirus patient dead after medical residents set ventilator too high

by Editorial Team

A New York coronavirus patient died after inexperienced medical residents rushed to the front line of the pandemic set her ventilator too high, according to a report.

The patient, who was in her 60s, was being cared for on an overnight shift at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx last month by family medicine residents, who were not properly trained in how to use the respiratory support machine, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Medical residents are doctors-in-training who have graduated from medical school but are training for a specialty under the supervision of a senior physician. As family medicine residents, the young doctors typically wouldn’t work in an intensive care unit on critically ill patients — but as hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, they were thrust into roles they weren’t prepared for.

So when the patient’s illness worsened dramatically overnight and the residents hooked her up to a ventilator, they accidentally turned the device up too high — stopping her heart, according to the paper.

When a critical care physician rushed to the room, the doctors-in-training admitted they didn’t know how to properly work the settings on the ventilator.

The disturbing incident is just one of several reported by the Wall Street Journal. Other residents — such as those training to be dentists, ophthalmologists, podiatrists and psychiatrists — have also been pushed to the front line because the city’s doctors are stretched desperately thin.

At Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, anesthesiology residents were sent to work as respiratory therapists — a licensed job that requires at least two years of training — after just one Zoom session and a Google document that instructed them to call an attending physician if they needed help, according to the paper.

And at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia, a resident admitted to being afraid that patients were being treated like “guinea pigs.”

Hospital officials contacted by the paper said the coronavirus crisis has created extraordinary conditions for all staff members, prompting an all-hands-on-deck response.

“Our mission is to save lives, and our heroic health care workers are on the front lines … navigating unprecedented challenges under enormous pressure,” a spokesperson for the institution formally known as NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center told the Wall Street Journal.

“We are constantly working to give them the support and resources they need.”

Montefiore Medical Center didn’t return a request for comment, according to the paper.


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