SNF PT POV: COVID-19

Note: this initial post was written March 25, 2020. An update with more recent statistics can be found prior to the conclusion of this blog post.

I knew there would be obstacles in my career a physical therapist – people will fall, mistakes will be made, people will die – but nothing could have prepared me for COVID-19, the viral pandemic that has done so much damage with no end in sight.

As of 3/25/2020, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at John Hopkins, more than 420,000 people have contracted the novel coronavirus and at least 18,915 have died.  What initially started in mainland China has spread globally, continent to continent, to every US state. The Ohio Department of Health reports 564 confirmed cases in Ohio across 49 counties with 8 confirmed deaths.

As a healthcare worker, this is hard, in so many ways. I came to the realization that there would be a point that I may have to make the decision to step away from my patients and residents for fear of exposing them to this virus. I had a particularly hard day, where the reality of the danger of my job in combination with Kyle’s started to set in. A sense of identity crisis fell over me because as healthcare workers, all we want to do is help. And to come to terms with the fact that continuing to do my job with the intent to help others could result in spreading of this virus, or worse, is heart breaking. And on top of that, the ethical dilemma this presents as a supervising therapist is hard. I have assistants that work under me that could effectively lose their jobs and be forced into an unpaid leave of absence if I can no longer work and/or supervise – assuming another PT can’t fulfill my position for the time being. That has weighed very heavily on me.

What is so upsetting is that no one seems to be talking about the implications of traveling building to building as I have done daily for the majority of my career. I made the personal decision (and what I consider to be the socially responsible decision) mid March to stop traveling to more than 1 building a day, which honestly isn’t even enough. It’s infuriating to me that other therapists aren’t speaking out on the dangers of traveling building to building. While I understand everyone’s caseloads are low and they are desperate to find work, this has to stop.

According to article published by the LA Times on March 18, 2020, “Limitations in effective infection control and prevention and staff members working in multiple facilities contributed to intra- and interfacility spread” per a CDC report. The CDC confirmed 129 COVID-19 cases among people linked to Life Care Center of Kirkland – 81 residents, 34 staff members, and 14 visitors. The CDC investigation into the Kirkland facility found that infected healthcare workers had a broad range of occupations: doctor, nurse, nursing assistance, physical therapist, occupational therapist assistance, environmental care work, health information officer and case manager.

April 2020 Update
Today is now April 18, 2020, and according to worldometers.com, there are 2,330,986 COVID-19 cases globally with 160,757 deaths and 596,687 of cases have recovered. The US has had 30,104 deaths, 401 of those from Ohio.

I was deemed ‘high-risk’ by one of my job sites after Kyle had his first positive COVID-19 case transport and was I mandated to take a 14 day unpaid leave from that facility. Thankfully I was able to work in two other buildings (one building per day, I have continued to refuse to between buildings day to day) for that time, though hours have been low, 10-20 hours a week. After 14 days of symptom and temperature monitoring, I was able to return to the building that previously had not permitted me to work. That week I returned to sad news, 5 resident deaths, none COVID-19 related (or so I was told). That same day, our 14 year old therapy cat was laid to rest, which was the saddest ending to an already sad day. Things have been calm otherwise since then. Still no positive cases at either of my buildings, but that could change any day.

Until tomorrow, Meryn


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