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Doctors and nurses frustrated by battles with virus skeptics

MISSION, Kan. – Treating the sick and dying isn’t even the hardest part for Nurse Amelia Montgomery as the coronavirus grows in her corner of Red America.

It has to do with patients and relatives who don’t believe the virus is real, refuse to wear masks and require treatments such as hydroxychloroquine, which President Donald Trump has argued even though experts say it is not effective against the scourge it killed over 210,000 people in the US

Montgomery finds himself, like so many other doctors and nurses, in a world where crisis politics are complicating treatment efforts, with some people resisting even getting tested.

It is not clear how Trump’s encounter with the virus will affect the situation, but some doctors are not optimistic. After a few days of treatment in a military hospital, the president tweeted on Monday: “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life. … I feel better than I felt 20 years ago! “

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Anurse demonstrating in favor of the closure of businesses is surrounded by protesters against the restrictions on the daily life of Governor Tony Evers due to the coronavirus pandemic at the Capitol in Madison, Wis. In April. Doctors and nurses treating the sick and dying of the coronavirus have said the policy around social detachment and lethality of the virus is complicating treatment efforts. Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel via AP, File

After a tough shift in the coronavirus unit at Cox South Hospital in Springfield, Montgomery took to Facebook to vent her frustrations about caring for patients who didn’t walk away socially because they didn’t believe the virus was real. The hospital later shared his post on its website.

She complained that some people require the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and think that the only patients who really get sick have underlying health problems.

“Most people don’t understand and can’t imagine what we’re seeing. It was frustrating for all of us, “Montgomery said in an interview, adding,” Wear it. “

Fighting virus skeptics is a nationwide battle.

In Georgia, at Augusta University Medical Center, visitors tried to circumvent the mask requirement by wearing mesh face covers and other material with visible holes, something the hospital has called “harmful compliance.” People also showed up with video cameras in an attempt to gather evidence that the virus is a hoax, said Dr. Phillip Coule, the chief medical officer of the health system, who contracted the virus in July and saw two die. staff members.

“Just imagine that while you are taking care of your staff who are dying of this disease, and while you are trying to keep yourself safe, you are trying to keep your family safe, and you are trying to deal with a disease so little is known. , and then someone tells you it’s all a joke after you’ve been dealing with it all day, “he said. “Imagine the emotional distress this causes.”

He said most skeptics – including some who argued with him on Facebook – turn into believers when they get sick. And it’s starting to hear fewer people reject the virus completely since the president was diagnosed.

“It’s a shame that the president has contracted the disease, but it’s hard for groups that support the president to be out there saying he doesn’t exist,” he said.

But he also said he fears that people may draw the wrong lesson about the severity of the disease from what happened to Trump: “People can extrapolate that the risk for a 74 is low when the reality is that the risk for a 74 year old is. high enough. “

Beth Oller, who practices family medicine with her doctor-husband in rural Kansas Rooks County, isn’t optimistic that the president’s diagnosis will change a lot in her community, where cases are on the rise, many resist the masks. and marriages with hundreds of people. of guests have been held in the last few weeks.

“None of the things he has done since having him have helped us one bit and if anything, he would have flown in front of us,” he said, noting that the president took off his mask as soon as he returned to the White House. “All he did was keep showing people that the things we say we do are exaggerated and overreacted. As a doctor, it’s so damn frustrating. “

The issue has been a challenge in the red states for months.

In Iowa, home health nurse Lisa Dockery was fired from her job caring for a severely disabled boy after arguing with her parents, who said COVID-19 was a “hoax.” The discussion started because the parents refused to wear masks around Dockery and the boy, even though she told them their son’s life was in danger because he has breathing problems, relies on tube feeding and cannot walk, state unemployment records show.

The case ended with a judge ordering his former employer to pay for his unemployment.

Dr. Gary LeRoy, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said he was not surprised that it was so difficult to persuade the public, noting that there were also many denials as the Spanish flu was ramping up around the world. . century ago, killing tens of millions of people.

“When you look at human history, that’s what happens in every situation,” he said. “In war, in famine, in disease, there will be a population of people where bombs are falling all around and they don’t believe it exists.”

Dr. Brad Burmeister, an emergency medicine physician at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin, said he met some patients who refused to be tested for coronavirus despite presenting possible symptoms.

“They say they don’t want to become a statistic or some sort of rhetoric like that,” he said, adding that he thinks a change may be on the way, given what happened to Trump. “It just shows how contagious COVID-19 is and how easily it can spread, that even when you take all these precautions, you can still be infected with the virus.”

Dr Natasha Bhuyan, a family doctor in Phoenix, said politics often emerges in discussions with patients who come to ask if the death toll has been inflated.

“It’s a demic flu as well as a pandemic,” she complained.

Dr. Jay W. Lee, a GP from Orange County, California, recalled one patient who asked for the “largest prescription of hydroxychloroquine you can give me.”

“If I hadn’t worn the mask, he would have seen my mouth open,” said Lee, head of Share Our Selves medical clinics, adding that a small number of patients “have openly said it was a hoax.”

He found himself turning to social media and meeting elected leaders to combat some of the misinformation.

“I think in part we feel like we can’t just sit back and take it because silence is complicity,” he said.


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