An emergency room doctor has spoken out about the mental strain of dealing with COVID-19 patients as the global pandemic continues to rage.
Dr. Jan Zislis, owner and founder of ModernMed Concierge and a physician in the ER at Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut, tells The Post in a video diary that it’s difficult for medical staff to keep a level head.
“There is so much information that is being thrown at us every day. There are new numbers, new protocols, new medications,” he says.
“It’s really hard to kind of keep up with it all and stay on top of it all and maintain your sanity.”
Currently, there are nearly 2,000 cases of the coronavirus in Connecticut. New York is approaching 60,000, according to the CDC.
The 49-year-old is clocking in at least nine-hour shifts and reveals he is not getting enough sleep as he fields calls from his private-practice patients.
“There is also a heightened anxiety level just worrying about family and their well-being and concerns about bringing home the virus,” adds the father of three children, ages 10 to 16. “It’s become overwhelming.”
However, Zislis speaks cautiously about Greenwich Hospital’s ability to cope, pointing out that the ICU capacity has essentially tripled.
“There’s no doubt that the hospitals are being stretched to the max,” he says. “We are at full capacity in our ER with several patients waiting to be admitted upstairs.”
An entire floor of the hospital has been designated for those with the coronavirus and elective surgeries have been canceled.
Personal protective equipment, known as PPE, is in limited supply, with Zislis and his team each having to wear one N95 mask for the duration of their shift. They put the masks in individually tagged paper bags between patients. At the end of their shift, the face-covering goes into a bin to be re-sterilized.
“Hopefully we won’t need to use them because the supply chain will hopefully improve,” he explains.
This contrasts sharply with reports from some New York City hospitals, including Jacobi Medical Center in The Bronx, that the use of PPE such as N95 masks may need to be rationed, causing nurses to wear the same mask for up to five days.
The doctor stressed the importance of changing out of his PPE as soon as he exits a patient’s room, hand-washing and not touching his face.
“I have to say as emergency physicians, we are doing a good job,” he adds, revealing that Greenwich Hospital is fortunate because it is able to borrow staff from other hospitals to “fill in the gaps,” like when co-workers fall sick.
Refreshingly, Zislis maintains that morale is good.
“The spirit of the collaboration and teamwork is really, really unprecedented,” he says. “Everyone is really stepping up and the morale is very positive.”
He says staff has been touched by the generosity and support of the local Greenwich community, which has seen donors sending in food for them “just about every day.”
Ending his video diary, Zislis pleads with people not to come to the ER with minor symptoms, such as a cough without shortness of breath.
“We urge you to stay at home,” he advises. “The hospital is not the place for you.”
He says that if you are experiencing more severe symptoms, contact your primary care physician.
“If you need to, come in,” he concludes, “The bottom line is: we’re going to get through this and together we are going to make this pandemic a thing of the past.”