PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ While most Rhode Islanders may be primarily worried about the possibility of another full-scale lockdown, one emergency room doctor argues that what they’re seeing in the state’s hospitals should be the real cause for concern.
Dr. Laura Forman, chief of emergency medicine at Kent Hospital, joined Gov. Gina Raimondo during her weekly coronavirus briefing Thursday.
In a sobering message to Rhode Islanders, she painted a bleak picture of what doctors and patients alike are experiencing on a daily basis.
“Despite the vast healthcare resources in our state, this pandemic has pressed us to the brink,” Forman said.
Only 16% of beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are currently free in Rhode Island’s hospitals, and they are on pace to be filled in about a week based on the state’s current trajectory, according to Raimondo.
Roughly 600 additional beds can be added if hospitals implement surge plans, but another problem is the increased exhaustion of medical personnel.
“We try to deny it, we try to hide it, we try to work past it, but at the end of our shift, you can see it,” she said. “These are not just statistics and numbers. This is real. This is affecting our state, our communities and our people. We in the hospitals are seeing the affects of this every day.”
Forman said her experiences over the past several months are like nothing she’s ever seen before in the United States.
“It is much closer, in fact, to my experience working in refugee camps and battlefields across the world,” Forman said.
Forman, emotional at times, described what it’s like watching coronavirus patients say goodbye to their loved ones on FaceTime and die alone, comforted only by their physicians.
For those who remain skeptical about the virus, Forman said, “I wish that they could feel what it’s like to have to call a family member on their own personal cellphone and say, ‘I think your mom only has a couple more minutes left. Do you want to see her before she dies?’ and hold the cellphone up in the room.”
Forman urged Rhode Islanders to take the coronavirus seriously before it’s too late, especially as the state begins preparing its field hospitals for a potential overflow of patients.
“It is real because there are those that don’t get to go home from the hospital,” she said. “It is real because even those who do get to go home, often don’t get to return to a normal life.”
Alluding to how exhausted many people are from dealing with coronavirus for most of 2020, Forman said, “Pandemic fatigue is real, but so is everything else I’ve told you today.”
“Whether we give into the fatigue or whether we stay strong in our commitment to protect ourselves or one another ─ that is what will determine whether you and your families meet me in the emergency department, or whether you meet me when this is all over at our kids’ soccer games.”
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.