A traveling nurse on assignment in Texas described “horrific” conditions for patients with COVID-19 as hospitals reach max capacity amid a dramatic surge in local cases.
Among the most shocking claims made by registered nurse Lawanna Rivers about her time working at the University Medical Center in El Paso is the existence of a room she calls “The Pit,” where the worst COVID-positive patients were sent to die with minimal treatment and limited efforts at resuscitation.
Due to the sheer number of patients at the hospital, she and other nurses were instructed to give each person in “The Pit” just three rounds of CPR before the person was pronounced dead — a significant reduction to the normal efforts aimed at keeping patients alive.
“I saw a lot of people die that I felt like shouldn’t have died,” Rivers said in a nearly 50-minute Facebook live video posted Nov. 7. “Out of all the codes that we had there, there’s not a single patient that made it.”
El Paso is among the worst-hit cities in Texas, which last week became the first state to record over a million cases of COVID-19.
As of Sunday, the city was fighting 32,687 active cases and had 762 recorded deaths — forcing officials to extend a municipal lockdown order and resort to using several morgue trucks to store bodies.
In her video, Rivers also accused the hospital of not treating COVID-19 patients aggressively enough — and even that some doctors would avoid treating COVID-19 positive patients altogether.
She also claimed to have witnessed preferential treatment for a doctor’s wife, who was the sole COVID-19 survivor on that floor.
“The nurse that orientated me had one patient, she was called the ‘VIP’ patient, she was a doctor’s wife,” Rivers said. “They pulled out all the stops for that woman — there was nothing that they didn’t do for that woman. And guess what? She was the one patient that made it out of that ICU alive.”
In response to Rivers’ allegations, University Medical Center told local station KVIA-TV in a statement that although they sympathize with the medical professional, they “cannot fully verify the events expressed.”
“We empathize and sympathize with the difficult, physical and emotional toll that this pandemic takes on thousands of healthcare workers here and throughout our country,” the statement read.
“This particular travel nurse was at UMC briefly to help El Paso confront the surge of Covid-19 patients.”