Coronavirus: Frontline workers at 2 of LA's biggest hospitals describe emergency departments as a 'battle zone'

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As hospitals across the country grapple with a continued increase in coronavirus cases, some Southern California health care workers are speaking out about what their teams are up against while treating patients.

"This is a battle zone. I mean, it's a medical environment. It's loving, it's caring, but we have an enemy," said Dr. Sam Torbati, medical director of Cedars Sinai Hospitals Emergency Department.

Torbati said Cedars hasn't seen the surge of patients that hospitals are dealing with in New York City, but he expects they'll see more traffic. When they do, he said his team is ready.

Dr. Vanessa Beckett, an attending physician, is part of that team.

"It's easy to think that we won't personally be affected by this virus, but I guarantee that at the end of this pandemic, every single person will know someone who has lost their lives from this disease. Do it for them," Beckett said.

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Beckett is urging people to stay home to mitigate the spread, adding one of the hardest parts is how quickly the condition of COVID-19 patients can deteriorate.

Since patient's families aren't allowed at the bed side, they don't always have the chance to say goodbye.

"For me, getting sick is one thing. I would hate to bring it home. That would be catastrophic," Torbati said.
That's one of the biggest concerns voiced by critical care workers.

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Scott McPherson is an ICU nurse at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and explained his routine to keep his three kids and wife safe.

"When I get home, I essentially strip in my garage and place my clothes in the washer, and I go straight to the shower before I have any interaction with my family," McPherson said.

Like the doctors at Cedars, McPherson said one of the most frightening things is that although the majority of his patients have been older, there's been plenty of younger healthy patients who aren't immune to the illness.

"We're just leaning on each other at work. We have a great team. It's just really inspiring. The people I work with, they're the best healthcare professionals in the world," McPherson said.

The Cedars and UCLA critical care workers said one thing that's helped them immensely is the support from the community, whether it be donations of personal protective equipment or food, lifting their spirits.
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