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'I Have To Call Uncle': Hospital Nurses Stressed By Surge Of Coronavirus Patients

BOSTON (CBS) - "I have to call uncle. It's too much. Too much. I need help," said I.C.U. nurse Linda Barton. She works at Norwood Hospital and said this past weekend was the busiest and scariest of her career. "This weekend was beyond difficult," Barton said. "I kept asking and telling them we needed more help. We needed more hands, we needed more R.N.s, we needed more aids."

She said the coronavirus cases were more serious than she expected. "They're very, very sick. These are people who were living their lives normally two weeks ago, and now are on life-support, and I'm extremely worried about their survival," she said.

Donna Kelly-Williams, president of the MNA, the nurse's union, said it's the same story she's heard from nurses across the state.

Nurse Linda Barton
Norwood Hospital ICU Nurse Linda Barton (WBZ-TV)

"The number of patients that are presenting to our hospitals right now is something that we have never in our entire careers, have never even thought of or heard of, and the patients that are coming in are much sicker," Kelly Williams said. She said smaller community hospitals are even less equipped.

But a spokesperson for Steward Health Care, which runs Norwood Hospital, has a very different story. "Staffing is absolutely not a problem," said Nick Puleo. "Our I.C.U. is staffed completely, and meeting C.D.C staff requirements…We've been very proactive about getting equipment that nurses need."

Norwood Hospital
Norwood Hospital (WBZ-TV)

As for the protective gear many health care workers have been asking for, Barton said she's had to reuse hers too often. "I used mine, yesterday I think I threw it out after I think eight shifts," she said.

Kelly-Williams said N95 masks are meant to be used just once, "not to be used over the course of weeks at a time. It decreases their ability to prevent and provide safe patient care."

"This weekend I did not feel safe," said Barton. "When you're so busy and being pulled in 15 different directions every single minute of a 12, 13, 14, 15-hour day, mistakes are going to be made, and I'm really worried about that for myself and my colleagues."

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