This emergency room physician went from the horrors of the Surfside disaster back into the ER battling Florida’s Covid-19 surge

This emergency room physician went from the horrors of the Surfside disaster back into the ER battling Florida’s Covid-19 surge
Courtesy Dr. Ben Abo

Dr. Ben Abo, an EMS physician in south Florida, spent the last month helping on the scene of the Surfside condo collapse. Now that he’s back working in the emergency room, he says the Covid-19 situation is “worst it’s ever been.”

“It’s honestly going from one disaster to another,” Abo told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “We have plenty of PPE and I feel safe myself, but it’s really dangerous … (for) patients because there are so many people waiting — we’re just literally running out of room …”

Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Florida are up 13% from their previous peak on July 23, 2020, according to the Florida Hospital Association. And FHA said they expect 60% of hospitals in the state to face a “critical staffing shortage” in the next 7 days.

According to a news release Tuesday, there are currently 11,515 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 in the Sunshine State. FHA said that 84% of all inpatient beds and 86.5% of ICU beds are currently occupied.

Nationwide, hospital rooms are filling back up again with Covid-19 patients as the Delta variant spreads and tears through the unvaccinated population.

“There are still about 90 million eligible Americans who are unvaccinated,” said Jeffrey Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, on Monday. “And we need them to do their part, roll up their sleeves and get vaccinated. Each and every shot matters.”

Choosing to hear misinformation

At Surfside, Abo was in charge of the urban search and rescue team, he said. He described working at Surfside as a “familiar but unknown” experience because, though he was using his medical expertise, he wasn’t fully equipped for every situation at hand.

At times, he said he didn’t know what he’d have to do to treat someone, and unlike working at a hospital, he didn’t have the support of a bigger staff. He said he found himself having to “macgyver” a lot of solutions.

Abo said that what he’s facing now that he’s back in the emergency room is frustrating because the pandemic was, and in some ways still is a preventable situation.

“I personally lost four people … and to come back and do this full gamut, where this essentially could have been prevented, it really could have been prevented if people would just listen to proper information.”

“There really is a difference between listening and hearing,” Abo said. “They are (people) choosing to hear misinformation and this is just, it’s a slap in the face, it really is.”

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