As health care staff fall ill, doctors & nurses ask public for support

Posted at 7:45 AM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 07:45:59-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — It is an invisible threat that health care workers take on to save lives, but now some of them are also falling victim. Metro Detroit hospitals say thousands of health care workers are now showing symptoms of COVID-19.

7 Action News reached out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It says right now it is not tracking how many health care workers are impacted by the virus, so we don’t have a total number.

Some hospitals are sharing what they are seeing. Beaumont Health says about 1,500 health care workers are home with symptoms of COVID-19. At Henry Ford Hospital, about 700 health care workers are home with symptoms of COVID-19. Michigan Medicine says as of Monday, 728 of its employees have been tested for suspected COVID-19, and 110 of them were positive.

“I have a daughter that is twelve and a son that is nine,” said Dr. Harrison Tong.

The title of dad is a stressful title during a pandemic, especially when you also have the title of Emergency Room Director at McLaren Oakland. He says he doesn’t bring his work clothes into the house and showers before spending time with his family after work. He doesn’t want to get anyone else sick.

He also sees the struggles hospitals are facing as they work to get personal protection equipment for workers right now.

“Without the public’s help we simply do not have the manpower and the nursing staff, nor the beds, nor the equipment to take care of everyone,” Dr. Tong said.

He also knows that if he does get sick, it could be relatively worse because of his work.

“There are studies that I have read that found health care workers tend to get a little worse, because of the viral load that is in the department or on the floor,” he said.

The president of the Michigan Nurses Association, Jamie Brown -- who is also a critical care nurse -- says she is angry there is not more personal protection equipment. She says there will be a long term impact on the health care system.

“If you have the nurses dying, and then the hospitals aren’t protecting us, who is going to want to go into nursing school without any guarantees for your safety?” asked Brown.

Brown hasn’t seen her children in person in two weeks do to her work as a nurse. She sent them to their grandparents for their own protection. She says she is sacrificing to stop this virus and is asking you to too.

“We want everyone to stay safe so stay home and try not to go out if you don’t have to,” she said.