Philadelphia doctor, nurse open up about working inside ER during COVID-19 outbreak

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Temple University Hospital has treated the largest number of coronavirus patients of any hospital in the region. One doctor on the front lines tells Action News they have been ready for this.

Dr. Daniel Del Portal says they've been prepared as COVID-19 cases are going up by 10% each day.

They've converted an 8-story building on campus for COVID-19 treatment and put up a tent hospital just outside of the ER.

"We'll get to a point where everyone knows somebody who has been infected and gotten sick from it. This feels like a mass casualty event in slow motion. Anyone that comes in, we're treating them as if they have the virus," said Del Portal.

As the lead ER physician, he's seen first hand how everyone is vulnerable.

"We're also seeing cases of young folks that come in and they decompensate while we're watching them," said Del Portal.

WEB EXTRA: Temple University Hospital's Dr. Daniel Del Portal talks about COVID-19 pandemic
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WEB EXTRA: Temple University Hospital's Dr. Daniel Del Portal talks about working during COVID-19 pandemic.

From a nursing standpoint, the days inside the ER are now exhausting.

Kevin Desrochers is one of the nursing directors.

He said, "It's definitely difficult work. You hit the ground running and you're on your feet for 12 hours. You're wearing protective gear which is not always comfortable."

At times he's seen patients rapidly decline.

"When I say distress, it's to the point to where you are gasping for air," said Desrochers,

But he and Dr. Del Portal say they've had success.

For some ventilators help and for others, it's through the practice of proning.

"It's literally taking people, putting them in funny positions, putting them facedown and putting them on their sides while they're awake and talking to you," said Del Portal.

What has also helped them is support, like when you see staff cheered by first responders as they walk in.

So does social distancing.

"I know it's tough for people but in the grand scale, staying home for a couple of weeks is small in order to flatten this epidemic," Del Portal sys.
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